Religious teachers - better all round?
Religious teachers - better all round? Flash 90

Israel has an overabundance of young men trained to teach Talmud and Tanach in yeshiva high schools. This is proof of the success of the Religious Zionist high school network, which despite all the complaints heard about how students do not enjoy Talmud classes, seems to have produced a large number of young men who continue on to higher yeshiva studies after the IDF and wish to educate the next generation.

Most of these prospective Jewish educators study how to teach Talmud (known as Torah Shebe'al Peh) in yeshiva-connected teacher's colleges, acquiring a B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) degree at the end of a 3 year period of intensive yeshiva study, required education courses and student teaching. Most attain a license in Tanach a s well, while a smaller number train in other required subjects.

Arutz Sheva spoke to the head of a new program aimed at solving a serious educational problem while giving those enrolled in it a head start in finding employment.

"The chance of being hired as a high school Rebbe (Ra"m, mechanech) today, is, due to the glut, based not only on the abiity to inspire students, but on the rebbe's ability to fill some other real need in the yeshiva high school system" says Eliyahu Dovid Ehrenreich, formerly a student at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, who has researched the issue.

"It turns out," he continues, "that one of the major lacks in boy's yeshiva high schools is a pool of religious male English teachers, an almost non-existent commodity."

Yeshiva high schools only hire male teachers as a rule, but there simply are none to be found for English, required for graduation and an Achilles heel for many Israelis. And although every subject can be taught in a way that brings out connections to faith, the English syllabus includes reading material that presents ethical dilemmas and issues that interest teens – and yeshivas want that to be in the hands of those who can serve as role-models.

Ehrenreich turned to the Moreshet Ya'akov Yeshiva and Teacher's College men's campus in Rechovot, affiliated with Orot Yisrael College, with an idea. The result is a unique program that grants Talmud teachers who join the program a B.Ed. in teaching English along with their degrees in Talmud (Torah Shebe'al Pe in Israel).

English classes are to take place every Friday and during day-long sessions held in the vacation "bein hazmanim" period, so as not to interfere with Torah study– and there are full scholarships for those who join the program.

"If you apply for a job as a high school Rebbe/mechanech, and you can teach English while another applicant can teach Tanach – who do you think is going to be hired?" he asks rhetorically.

Who are the most suitable candidates, we asked? There are, of course, native Israelis who have a flair for English and others who spent some years in English-speaking countries. "But the biggest potential source of these teachers is to be found in the many religious anglo families who made aliya to Israel and raised their children in the Jewish State, resulting in entire neighborhoods where one can get by with nary a word of Hebrew", Ehrenreich states.." Because one of the things almost all of those Anglos do is invest much effort into making sure their children know how to speak English."

Do the parents' efforts work? It's a matter of luck, as all Anglo parents know. Sometimes the offspring sound like native Americans and love to read in English, sometimes their accents make them sound like their greenhorn great grandparents, sometimes they refuse to cooperate, but the language is in their DNA – sometimes active and often passive – but there.

And now, it can put those who are in the religious Zionist or haredi yeshiva world on the preferred list for a meaningful teaching career that will allow them to support their families respectably, while engaging in needed educational endeavors.

"Yes, it's a good thing your anglo parents made you speak English," says Ehrenreich to applicants – "now you are going to reap the results." (, 052-4881075)