Education Ministry:"No doubt, the generation that feels a connection to Judaism is dwindling"
Yad L'Achim Chairman: To Curb Violence, Beef Up Jewish Education, Not Police Patrols * Call on Religious Public to Engage in Spiritual Outreach Efforts
Letter of response from Ministry of Education-Dire (Enlarge)

The incidents of senseless violence involving young people that made headlines this summer should serve as a wake-up call to the country's educators, Yad L'Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lipschitz said in a letter to Education Minister Gideon Saar.

"Yad L'Achim activists are on the street and they meet with youngsters of all ages, from all strata of society," Rav Lipschitz wrote, in a letter sent on the eve of the opening of the new school year. "When young people are asked, 'What does it mean to be a Jew' or to complete the verse, 'Shema Yisrael….,' they draw a blank.

"This ignorance, which makes young people feel estranged from Judaism, is a result of serious flaws in Israel's education system. It has led to a deterioration in morals and values which finds expression in the shocking rise in violence. This reflects what our Sages said of the Jewish people (Megillah 16): 'When they go down, they go all the way down to the dust. When they go up, they go up to the stars."

In short, added Rav Lipschitz, the Jew has two choices: be a Jew or to lose his divine image. There is no middle path.

"The Education Ministry and successive governments have over the years been responsible for the fact that education today is devoid of any Jewish spirit. Those who serve as role models for the young, from the teachers to those who sit atop the political hierarchy, are lacking any trace of Jewish substance."

The letter proposed a program that puts Jewish faith at the top of the schools' priorities. In the first stage, children will recite Shema Yisrael at the opening of the school day.

Rav Lipschitz's letter prompted a response from the director general of the Education Ministry, Dr. Shimshon Shoshani.

"There is no doubt that the generation that feels a connection to Judaism is dwindling," he conceded in a letter. But, he added, the Education Ministry intends to strengthen these subjects as of next year.
He detailed specific programs, and expressed the hope that they would succeed in strengthening values.

Rav Lipschitz note that a significant addition of hundreds of hours of Jewish education in the schools would contribute much more to making the country's streets safe than beefing up police patrols.

At the same time, Rav Lipschitz turned to the religious public, urging them to get involved. Quoting from the Tana Debei Eliahu, he said: "Whoever had the opportunity to protest, but didn't; to bring Jews back and didn't, it is as if he spilt the blood with his hands, as it is stated 'and his blood from your hands I will seek,' because all Jews are responsible for one another.

"No one can shut his eyes and say, 'These difficult things [Jewish girls in Arab villages] are happening out there, in Arab villages, not among us.' We can't stand by quietly. Even as the professionals are doing their share and getting involved in rescue work and Pidyon Shuvyim, the avreichim and bnei Torah must do outreach work. This is the time to visit home and explain one-on-one, so that we may not experience further tragedy within our borders."

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