Grim Outlook for Yeshiva Diplomas

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yeshivaBy Yaakov Kantor

It is September, and the outlook for advanced New York State Regents diplomas in yeshivos is a bit grim. Why so? Most yeshivos do not offer foreign language instruction other than Hebrew. And way back in June, while facing a funding deficit of $11.5 million for P-12 programs, the Board of Regents approved some hefty cost cutting measures. These cuts included the elimination of January regents and all foreign language regents except for French and Spanish, were dependant upon the inclusion in the State budget of the $7 million asked for by the Regents. The Italians got together and saved the Italian Regent, but Hebrew, Latin and German were still eliminated.

So what does this mean for Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs? Well, one of three things will have to happen:

1] Either the Jewish community (or Agudas Yisroel) had better get it together and pressure the political powers that be to reinstate Hebrew

2]The Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs can start offering Spanish for three years

3] The Torah schools can opt to only give a Basic Regent diploma and no longer offer an Advanced Regent diploma.

The downside of the third option is that now there is no incentive to make the students take more years of science and math. There is a basic rule of young people that is in immutable law of nature- if they CAN get away with it – they will. The consequences will be that our graduating classes will be less and less educated and lesser equipped to enter a growingly complex job market.

It is imperative that one of the two earlier options be exercised immediately. All high school parents who care about their children and have children enrolled in Yeshivos should bombard the offices of their Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs now. Spanish language instruction should be offered immediately.



  1. Somehow I can’t imagine the seminaries and yeshivos accepting our high school graduates will care about an advanced Regents diploma, as opposed to a basice one. If the high school wants to require extra math and science, they can. They don’t need NYS to offer the incentive of the advanced dipoloma. We have far more important things to worry about.

  2. Nothing wrong with Spanish, but I agree with number one. We don’t need the government to set our standards of education. Also, it isn’t clear to me that our kids will be “less and less educated” just because of state requirements. The schools can pick the topics required. Even more time learning gemara is “more education”!

  3. When I went to high school fifty years ago we were required to learn two foreign languages. We all took Hebrew and either French or Spanish. Some yeshivas even offered Russian. We even learned English. Believe it or not.

  4. I graduated HS 15 years ago, and to this day wish my yeshiva would have taught Spanish. I do a lot of kashrus work and most of the kitchen help is Hispanic. That would have been a TREMENDOUS life skill for me. Instead my mesivta “taught” us Hebrew. (We knew more Hebrew than the teacher from chumash, mishnayos and gemara) and we learned virtually nothing.

  5. To #2: I agree that it is probably a good idea to be able to communicate in multiple languages. However, let us not misundestand the deal with Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin members in general did NOT speak 70 languages. The requirement was only that two members be able to speak the language of the eidim, and a third be able to understand. From all 71 members of the Sangedrin, it was only necessary for that minimal amount be conversant in foreign languges. And that was for a specific purpose.
    To mandate all kinds of languges just so you can read the subway signs in multiple different ways may be a waste of effort. If the state demands that we be multicultural and be able to communicate in multiple different ways, let each ethnic group choose which languages would be beneficial, and not mandate Spanish and French, which is itself kowtowing to a specific ethnic minoroty.

  6. It is unreasonable to burden a Yeshiva Bochur with formally learning a foreign language. The Yeshivos already teach the core of Math, History, English, and Science. The bochurim also learn in Aramaic, and Hebrew and frequently hear shiur in Yiddish. There are plenty of bochurim, who already struggle with Aramaic and Hebrew. A mandate to learn Spanish or French will come out of their Gemara time and further cripple their basic learning skills. Which, down the line is more crippling to a member of our society than not having an “advanced” Regents Diploma.

  7. #1 For those continuing education after high school there is a MAJOR DIFFERENCE bt Regents diploma and return high school diploma. In the realm of scholarships, grants and masters programs it does MATTER.

  8. This article is a bit incongruous. Yeshiva students and bais yaakov girls are illiterate in both English and Hebrew. Just read the comments in the popular frum websites. If you don’t notice the frighteningly low level of language usage, then you must be a yeshiva boy or a bais yaakov girl.
    Their (not “there”, little girls) command of Hebrew as a spoken language is no better. How many of these “Hebrew” experts can put together a coherent sentence when they come for their year in Israel? It’s worse than pathetic.

  9. #13: I am aware of the difference for those pursiuing advanced aducation; I have a Masters degree. But the vast majority of our children are not attending the institutions where this will matter.

  10. Completely opposed to learning Spanish. It’s high time Hispanics learn English, the one truly universal language. Noone should cave in to some perceived need to talk to illiterate cleaning ladies and busboys, almost all of whom are here illegally.
    Completely agree that many of our fine yeshiva boys are illiterate in 3 languages: they obviously don’t speak Modern Hebrew fluently—how could they, being (barely) taught Biblical Hebrew and (much more intensively) Babylonian Jewish Aramaic texts?—nor do they show great command of English or Aramaic. If you can’t ask where a minyan is davening, or how to order soup in a restaurant, you have no basic fluency. The typical yeshiva guy speaks a much better Yiddish than Modern Hebrew, and he can barely speak Yiddish.
    French is a great idea: it would open up vistas of knowledge. Some of the all-time great mathematicians and philosophers wrote in French, it is a language of advanced scholarship (Spanish is not) and international travel, and it sounds lyrical and suave. So, I am in favor of Yeshiva boys learning French. Sorry to see the Hebrew regent go, though. It forced guys to finally learn some semblance of the grammar, which they never knew and now will never have to know. Isn’t it ludicrous how some have developed a perverse pride in not knowing their own, holy tongue? It has been punted away to the maskilim. Good for you. When your students ask you to explain a dikduk Rashi, don’t come crying to me.
    And too bad about Latin and German, too.

  11. why spanish, isn`t aramaik or yiddish good enough .
    and then again many yeshivot offer shiurim in spanish, russian or french for bochurim from around the world. i don`t think that lenguage is such a big problem in our yeshivot.
    our basic problem is science, math and so on.
    when you leave a yeshivah you may be able to learn some gemarrah , but this doesn`t help you to find a job.
    we need more preparation for life in the sence of working skills or any other studies combined with Torah


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