Friday, April 27, 2007

Mah Zeh Harvard?

Israelis, especially (but not only) secular leftists, like to pride themselves on their sophistication. Many of these self-styled intellectuals (especially those in the media, culture and politics) regard the poor, beknighted conservatives and/or religious with pity. They mouth pre-masticated slogans and recycle well-oiled ideas, without any clue as to what they mean. They are set in their self-evident superiority.

One way in which this manifests itself is in the common attitude of the above uber-menschen to American culture, government and education. The ignorance, pretense and sheer arrogance that characterizes these regnant circles lies somewhere between the maddening and the farcical. [As Amnon Dankner, the editor of Maariv once said, 'Most of my friends never read books and certainly not in English.]

A few examples are in order.

1) My faculty happens to have a relatively high percentage of Ivy League graduates (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, UPenn and Princeton). That fact is of very little worth in most serious academic discussions. If, however, a local faculty member spends time as a visitor at any of the above institutions, he is immediately hailed for his connection with an august university.

2) In order to be accepted into the Ministry of Education's rolls, a foreigner needs to bring his diplomas for certification of equivalence. It's called שקילת תארים. When I underwent the process, I shlepped all of the framed pieces of paper to the ministry, and xeroxed them in front of the director. The senior person in charge asked: What language are these written in? I told her Latin. 'Oh,' she responded. 'And just what university are these from?' 'Boston University and Harvard University,' I replied. 'Can you really say that they are on the same level as an Israeli school?' I was a bit taken aback, but managed to say, 'Yes.' She was skeptical and took the matter under advisement. The certification took over a month.

3) I was at a conference in Europe with some Israeli colleagues. As usual, we all discussed our children, school etc. I mentioned that my son goes to Noam High School and my daughter to Zviya Arts School. (Both are on the left side of the Merkaz HaRav world.) We then segued into a discussion of Aharon Barak and his transformation of the Supreme Court into the Supreme Leader. I contrasted the American system with Israel's (something that Evelyn Gordon, Ben Chorin and Caroline Glick do more eloquently than I). My interlocutor just looked at me with pity and said, 'I understand why you send your children to Noam.' In other words, you poor primitive. Your choice of a more conservative school for your children is evidence of your inability to grasp the nature of enlightened society and government. [Ah!!! A true believer.]

The best example, bar none I just heard today.

A friend of mine had a job interview with a very senior person at one of the Israeli universities. The interviewer looked over his resume and saw that he had done his AB at Harvard College. She looked at him and asked: 'I see you attended Harvard College. What was wrong? Were your grades too low to be admitted to a university?'

Laugh or cry?


Alex said...


Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.


Ben Bayit said...

It's the same in the "real world" job market as well - not just academia. An Israeli who does an executive MBA at some prestigious american university is considered "global", whilst an Aemrican olhe with a full 4 year degree from same institution is a "freir" because he came here in the first place.

The best thing YU can do for its almuni in Israel is to simply change the name of the University to something other than "Yeshiva". Most Israeli professionals relate to it as some sort of joke - they vision a place in Boro Park that mints degrees a-la Latvian Universities.

The clerk that did my diploma asked what was a course called "job' (as in jobnik) for a course listed as BIB1206 Job

Shlomo Argamon said...

You got a certification from Misrad Hahinukh in only a month?! It took me about a year-and-a-half, with my Latin diplomas from Yale - they wanted an official translation and transcripts of my grades(!) and God-knows-what other documentation, before they would concede that a Yale PhD was good enough... Lord save us from parochial elitists!