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Faith in the Faithful

3 april 2014

Education has always been an important part of the Jewish faith but some believe studying religious texts can have other benefits too. While there’s no definitive data, some believe studying texts like the Talmud at a young age can have benefits in later life.


At the Ramaz school on New York’s Upper East Side, Ms Ross is teaching her 8th grade Talmud class.


The school teaches both Judaic and general studies education and this class is seen as a key part of the curriculum.


By analyzing and debating the views of thousands of rabbis that make up the Talmud, teachers here say this practice does more than give a greater understanding of the Jewish faith.


While the priority of the Talmud class is to develop deeper understanding of Judaism, Rabbi Kraus says it helps develop critical skills.


Rabbi Daniel Kraus, Director of Community Education, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun:


“The experience that you gain from studying the Talmud, it forces one to critically analyze, to critically think and scrutinize texts and the years that you spend in this meticulous Talmud study can really help you in any field later on in life.”


Ari Zoldan endorses that view.


He’s the CEO of tech company Quantum Networks and says he’s noticed that people with a background studying texts like the Talmud tend to make excellent data analysts.


For Zoldan, those in the Orthodox community that have spent years analyzing texts make them ideal candidates in the tech field.


Ari Zoldan, CEO Quantum Networks:


“It’s in our blood on some level to be able to decipher, understand, breakdown and reinterpret a lot of analytical data. So obviously hiring people within the Hassidic community specifically as it relates to analyzing data, it has been a really good fit for us.”


Though Zoldan stresses these values, he says job positions are filled on merit, regardless of race or religion.


For Professor Rick Rossein at CUNY University’s School of Law, judging each candidate on an individual basis is key. He warns that stereotypes and generalizations - good or bad - can get companies in trouble.


Professor Rick Rossein, City University New York Law School:


“I would certainly advise against that. Because once again, any stereotype, first of all, er, it may not be true. Second of all, within that group, it’s going to vary greatly with respect to any particular individual and what you’re actually doing by using that process is pushing other people away.”


For the academic community, it’s hard to prove whether learning religious texts can be advantageous in the working world.


New York University Assistant Professor Benjamin Jacobs says that while he’s not aware of any definitive studies on the subject, there may be some truth behind the theory.


Benjamin Jacobs, Assistant Professor for Social Studies, Education and Jewish Studies at New York University:


“It’s almost like a logic problem and I can understand that. You know, it says ‘Rabbi X says Y, right? and Rabbi Z says A. If Y then Z.’ You know that kind of logic problem that we’re familiar with from standardized testing, the analytic section of a standardized test for example. It’s some of the same kind of logic that we see in some of the rabbinic texts.”


For those teaching at the Ramaz School behind me, they educate kids to pass on the traditions that have been passed down through the generations. If there’s any belief that these skills acquired will be useful in the working world, they say it’s just an added bonus.


William Denselow, JN1, New York


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