Thursday, April 8, 2010

Haredim and their lack of knowledge on Jewish History


During Chol HaMoed Pessach I went to the "Diaspora Museum - Beit HaTefuzoth" in Ramat Aviv (Tel Aviv). It was neither my first nor my last time, as I have been there quite a couple of times and always enjoyed myself very much. The exhibition of Jewish customs in the Diaspora and the life in Galut (Diaspora) as a whole. 

Last week, the museum was packed with Haredim from Bnei Brak. From the Litvish to Vishnitz. Everyone was there. Entire families and what, once again, amazed me most was that from the Litvish to Vishnitz, most Haredim have a total lack of Jewish history knowledge. Today's youth may learn some history through the Talmud but this may more concern the times of the Tannaim such as Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Anthing else is a big question mark to Haredim. People basically know the Rambam (Maimonides) but do they know about the dispute between the Catholic church (Pablo Christiani) and the Ramban (Nachmanides) in Barcelona in 1263 ? What do they know about the Spanish Expulsion in 1492 and what about the heritage of Sephardic Jews who escaped to North Africa ? Do they know Jewish philosophers such as Crescas or Albo ? What does haredi youth learn about Rabbi Saadia Gaon or Rabbi Yehudah Halevi ?

Not much or nothing but "only" strict Halachot and how to behave and think today. While the Rambam still discussed Aristotle and other Jewish Sages spoke about Plato, we have to ask ourselves: What is left today ? 
A haredi youth (including adults) who widely has no knowledge whatsoever. 

When I, once again, became aware of this while walking through the "Diaspora Museum" it gave me a feeling of tremendous disappointment. What is left from our ancestors ? From the greatest Rabbis of the Middle Ages ?


  1. It is not only Haredi! Most secular Israelis have no idea of history! They buy in to the biased media to the point that some are waving Hamas flags and shouting in arabic that Jews are dogs and pigs. Their ignorance is beyond belief. The Israeli government has failed greatly in educating our children--and the muslims have stepped right in to rewrite history excluding the Jews entirely! The idiots are even saying that the christian Mary was a Palestinian!! The PA didn't even exist till arafat rolled over from Egypt and created a "people". Sadly, many Israelis are totally ignorant of the rich heritage they have.

  2. Thank you Miriam for a very insightful post.

    Your comments reminded me that unfortunately, most Haredim are still opposing teaching the "core curriculum" subjects: English, mathematics and science.

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel

  3. B"H

    @ Anonymous

    Unfortunately this is very true, too. I saw secular Israeli kids who asked their mother while looking at a spice box, what Havdalah is.

    This is a disgrace for any Jew not to know ! I am not accusing the kids but their parents. How can your raise your children by not telling them about one's own heritage and by feeding them Chametz on Pessach ?

    @ Yoel

    I think the Rambam and even the Vilna Gaon would faint today when they saw the vast lack of education haredi society has. Just think about all those famous great Rabbis being Rabbis but also scientists.