Advertisement

Journal of Religious Education

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 165–181 | Cite as

Learning standards in a non-standard system: mapping student knowledge and comprehension in ultra-orthodox Talmud Torah schools

  • Shira Iluz
  • Yaacov J. Katz
  • Hindy Stern
Article
  • 4 Downloads

Abstract

The Jewish ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Talmud Torah schools have been consistently resistant to the process of standardization in content, measurement, and evaluation, in contrast to the Israeli state education system which has progressed steadily in these areas. Talmud Torah schools are private elementary schools for ultra-orthodox boys. Studies are religious and the main subject of study is the Gemara (Talmud). For religious and ideological reasons these schools insist on total independence at all levels and resist assessment or regulation of any kind and as a result have rarely been studied by Israeli or international researchers. The present study examined the contribution of a unique Gemara study program to a sample of 159 sixth grade boys in Talmud Torah schools. Students completed questionnaires to evaluate general ability and language skills, Aramaic vocabulary skills, and knowledge of Gemara. After the intervention, the test results of the experimental group were found to be superior to those of the control group. The findings also provide first insights into the performance of ultra-orthodox students on verbal and general ability measures compared to the general Israeli school population. Thus, this study provides the first standardized measurement and evaluation of learning and literacy in the previously inaccessible Haredi student population.

Keywords

Jewish ultra-orthodox Gemara study Reading comprehension 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper is based on a graduate research project conducted by Ariel Sherlow at the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University and supervised by the authors.

References

  1. Anastasi, A., & Urbina, S. (1997). Psychological testing (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Brandes, Y. (2016). Talmud study: From proficiency to meaning. Ḥakirah, 21, 81–112. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  3. Caplan, K. (2007). Internal popular discourse in Israeli Haredi society. Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  4. Carroll, S., & Collins, A. (2015). The worlds of the text: A contextual approach to scripture for religious educators. Journal of Religious Education, 62, 129–139.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s40839-014-0012-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chikalanga, I. (1992). A suggested taxonomy of inferences for the reading teacher. Reading in a Foreign Language, 8, 697–709.Google Scholar
  6. Dembo, Y., Levin, I., & Siegler, R. S. (1997). A comparison of the geometric reasoning of students attending Israeli ultra orthodox and mainstream schools. Developmental Psychology, 33, 92–103.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.33.1.92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. D. (2008). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. Journal of Education, 189, 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Feinson, M. C., & Hornik-Lurie, T. (2016). Body dissatisfaction and the relevance of religiosity: A focus on ultra-orthodox Jews in a community study of adult women. Clinical Social Work Journal, 44, 87–97.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-016-0574-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feniger, Y., & Ayalon, H. (2015). English as a gatekeeper: Inequality between Jews and Arabs in access to higher education in Israel. International Journal of Educational Research, 76, 104–111.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2015.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feuerstein, R., Feuerstein, R. S., & Falik, L. H. (2010). Beyond smarter: Mediated learning and the brain’s capacity for change. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  11. Freund, A., & Band-Winterstein, T. (2013). Between tradition and modernity: Social work-related change processes in the Jewish ultra-orthodox society in Israel. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37, 422–433.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.10.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Freund, A., & Band-Winterstein, T. (2016). Cultural psychiatry: A spotlight on the experience of clinical social workers’ encounter with Jewish ultra-orthodox mental health clients. Community Mental Health Journal, 53, 613–625.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-016-0056-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedman, M. (1986a). Haredim confront the modern city. In P. Y. Medding (Ed.), Studies in contemporary Jewry (Vol. 2, pp. 74–96). Bloomington, IN: The University of Indiana Press.Google Scholar
  14. Friedman, M. (1986b). Life tradition and book tradition in the development of ultra-orthodox Judaism. In H. E. Goldberg (Ed.), Judaism viewed from within and from without: Anthropological studies (pp. 235–255). Albany, NY: SUNY.Google Scholar
  15. Friedman, M. (1991). The Haredi ultra-orthodox society: Sources, trends and processes. Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  16. Friedman, M. (1995). The structural foundation for the religio-political accommodation in Israel: Fallacy and reality. In S. I. Troen & N. Lucas (Eds.), Israel: The first decade of independence (pp. 51–81). Albany, NY: SUNY.Google Scholar
  17. Gardner, D., & Deadrick, D. L. (2008). Under-prediction of performance for US minorities using cognitive ability measures. Equal Opportunities International, 27, 455–464.  https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150810882305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glanz, Y. (1989). Chemed: A comprehensive testing battery. Tel Aviv: Barak, Information Processing. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  19. Gottlieb, D. (2007). Poverty and labor market behavior in the ultra-orthodox population in Israel. Jerusalem: Van-Leer Institute. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  20. Grazi, R. V., & Wolowelsky, J. B. (2015). Cultural concerns when counseling orthodox Jewish couples for genetic screening and PGD. Journal of Genetic Counselling, 24, 878–881.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10897-015-9860-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gurovich, N., & Cohen-Kastro, E. (2004). Ultra-orthodox Jews geographic distribution and demographic, social and economic characteristics of the ultra-orthodox Jewish population in Israel 19962001. (Hebrew) Jerusalem: Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cbs.gov.il/www/publications/int_ulor.pdf.
  22. Hayman, P. Z. (2009). Why study Talmud in the twenty-first century? In P. Socken (Ed.), Why study Talmud in the twenty-first century: The relevance of the ancient Jewish text to our world. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  23. Helms, J. E. (2008). Implications for social policy of variability in racial groups. American Psychologist, 63, 721–739.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.63.8.721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hess, E. (2014). The centrality of guilt: Working with ultra-orthodox Jewish patients in Israel. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 74, 262–279.  https://doi.org/10.1057/ajp.2014.23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Iluz, S., & Katz, Y. (2012). Evaluation of corrective teaching in Jewish ultra-orthodox Talmud Torah schools: Preliminary glimpses into a closed Society. Ramat Gan: School of Education, Bar Ilan University. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  26. Janda, L. H. (1998). Psychological testing: Theory and applications. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  27. Knesset. (1953). National Education Act. Jerusalem: Knesset. Retrieved from https://www.knesset.gov.il/review/data/heb/law/kns2_education.pdf.
  28. Kulp, J., & Rogoff, J. (2014). Reconstructing the Talmud: An introduction to the academic study of rabbinic literature. New York, NY: Mechon Hadar.Google Scholar
  29. Levisohn, J. A., & Fendrick, S. P. (2013). Introduction: Cultivating curiosity about the teaching of classical Jewish texts. In J. A. Levisohn & S. P. Fendrick (Eds.), Turn it and turn it again: Studies in the teaching and learning of classical Jewish texts (pp. 13–24). Boston, MA: Academic Studies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education. (2017). International assessment tests. (Hebrew) Retrieved from http://cms.education.gov.il/EducationCMS/Units/Rama/MivchanimBenLeumiyim.
  31. Ogbu, J. U. (1990). Minority education in comparative perspective. Journal of Negro Education, 59, 45–57.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2295291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ogbu, J. U., & Simons, H. D. (1998). Voluntary and involuntary minorities: A cultural-ecological theory of school performance with some implications for education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 29, 155–188.  https://doi.org/10.1525/aeq.1998.29.2.155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pearson, P. D., & Johnson, D. D. (1978). Teaching reading comprehension. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  34. Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Raven, J. C. (1958). Standard progressive matrices: Sets A, B, C, D & E. London: Lewis & Co.Google Scholar
  36. Raven, J. C., Styles, I., & Raven, M. A. (1998). Raven’s progressive matrices: SPM plus test booklet. Oxford: Oxford Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rosen, J. (2001). The Talmud and the internet: A journey between worlds. New York, NY: Picador.Google Scholar
  38. Ryan, M. J. (2014). Teaching the Bible in the primary school. In J. Grajczonek & M. J. Ryan (Eds.), Growing in wisdom: Religious education in Catholic primary schools and early childhood (pp. 177–192). Hamilton, Australia: Lumino.Google Scholar
  39. Schlesinger, I. M., Melamed, Y., & Rivlin, S. (2011). Teaching Gemara. Tel Aviv: Mofet Intitute. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  40. Schloss, C. (2002). 2000 years of Jewish history: From the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash until the twentieth century. Jerusalem: Feldheim.Google Scholar
  41. Siebzehner, B., & Lehmann, D. (2014). Arranged marriage in the Haredi world: Authority, boundaries, and institutions. Megamot, 49, 641–668. Hebrew).Google Scholar
  42. Spiegel, E. (2011). Torah study is equivalent to all”: The ultra-orthodox (Haredi) education system for boys in Jerusalem. Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  43. Stadler, N. (2009). Yeshiva fundamentalism: Piety, gender, and resistance in the ultra-orthodox world. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Steinsaltz, A. (2014). Is there a Talmudic logic? In M. Pollak & D. S. Simons (Eds.), Morasha kehillat Yaakov: Essays in honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (pp. 31–43). Jerusalem: Maggid Books.Google Scholar
  45. Taub, T., & Werner, S. (2016). What support resources contribute to family quality of life among religious and secular Jewish families of children with developmental disability? Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 41, 348–359.  https://doi.org/10.3109/13668250.2016.1228859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tru’an, Y. A. (2007). The state school student population and the Haredi school population in the past decade. Jerusalem: The Knesset, Center for Research and Information. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  47. Vurgan, Y. (2007). The Haredi education system: Status report. Jerusalem: The Knesset, Center for Research and Information. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  48. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.), Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Wang, D. (2006). What can standardized reading tests tell us? Question-answer relationships and students’ performance. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 36(2), 21–37.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10790195.2006.10850185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weber, Y. (2002). The light of Talmud: Guidance and support for parents and teachers, fathers and sons, beginners and advanced Talmud students: Diagnostic difficulties in the study of Talmud and Gemara teaching tools in professional teaching. Bnei Brak: Trauba. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  51. Weiss, P., Shor, R., & Hadas-Lidor, N. (2013). Cultural aspects within caregiver interactions of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women and their family members with mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83, 520–527.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ajop.12045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Weiss-Halivni, D. (2013). The formation of the Babylonian Talmud. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Australian Catholic University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.Michlalah – Jerusalem Academic CollegeJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations