The leader of the Belz Hasidic sect has approved the inclusion of core curriculum in its elementary schools, including math, science, Hebrew and English, according to Wednesday media reports.
The sect’s education committee met on Monday with Education Ministry director Dalit Stauber and other top education officials in an attempt to formulate a model by which Talmud Torahs, the community’s equivalent of grades 1-8, that teach core curriculum would be fully budgeted by the state in accordance with their success in these studies, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Belz, led by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, is the second-largest Hasidic sect in Israel, with the proposed reform initially involving some 7,000 children.
Many ultra-Orthodox communities shun core curriculums at their institutions, stating that education should only focus on Torah studies.
However, a growing trend in Israel has seen more and more Haredim seeking to enter the job market, which they are unable to do without learning secular subjects.
With the community continuing to grow at a rapid pace compared to their secular counterparts, many officials have warned that the economy will face increasing strain unless Haredim are able to get an education and work.
The Belz outline, for the time being, involves only the sect’s boys’ schools and there is yet no agreement whether the students will be able to test for high school matriculation. An education official quoted by Kan said that it is likely the curriculum will be expanded to the community’s high school-age yeshivas.
Yesh Atid MK Moshe Tur-Paz, who was involved in the talks between the Hasidim and the Education Ministry, told Kan he was approached by Belz a year ago, when he headed Jerusalem municipality’s education system.
“They said they came to their decision over the need to earn a living and the need to finance their institutions, with the understanding that without core curriculum they would not be able to progress and their students would remain barred from the job market,” Tur-Paz said.
“They asked for my help to forge an outline where they would introduce core curriculum, approach the education ministry, and create a mechanism whereby they would get budgeted according to the number of core studies they would let in,” he said.
“The ministry’s management responded very positively to this approach and understood its potential,” He added. “The goal is to launch it in the next school year.”
“The state will be in big trouble if it doesn’t respond positively,” Tur-Paz added. “Today they are budgeted at about 40 percent of the budget for regular students. The state should accept the conditional budget plan.”
He also said he believes that the success of the outline will bring more Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox communities into the fold.