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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bribery and Recruitment for Israeli Gap Year Yeshivot

If the Jewish world had it's own NCAA, some yeshiva might be looking at sanctions. Recently, one of my readers pointed me to a thread on Lookjed forum in which the Principal of CHAT (Toronto) shared that a well-known Yeshiva in Israel bribed him by offering $1000 cash for each student he could steer their way.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure why the Rabbi has chosen to omit the name of the Yeshiva. The good news is that in each forum, there is no gray area amongst the educators on Lookjed about the ethical breach. Without exception, all who commented on the Lookjed thread and in the Jewish Week article are horrified, saddened, shocked, etc and many offer concrete suggestions as to how to improve the recruitment process, as well as stories from the past regarding what they see as inappropriate behavior in the recruitment process.

Despite the ethical breach, I feel positive that this recruitment "technique" will be rejected.


Orthonomics said...

Compare the thought process of the educators who know right from wrong to this commentator who has mastered twisting himself into a pretzel:

"“Aside from the obvious negation of Torah principles, this calls into question what recruitment is all about,” said Rabbi Binny Freedman, rosh yeshiva of Orayta, a Jerusalem yeshiva, said in the online discussion."Which Torah principles are negated? please point them out in sources. Bribing is a well known Torah principle stemming from at least the time when Yakov bribed his brother Eisav to stop Eisav from killing him. Whats next, are you going to claim that slavery is also anti Torah? Or perhaps that islam is a peaceful cult?

Thank G-d moral clarity is not dead.

tesyaa said...

Calling it a bribe sounds worse that a kickback or a rebate. I'm not sure what category it falls into. What this story really does is confirm the obvious, i.e. that these programs are cash cows.

JS said...


Maybe you'd want to comment on some of the more salient points in the Jewish Week article:

1) Israeli yeshivas are a cut-throat business that is fiercely competitive. The implication in the article is that this competition is leading some yeshivas to engage in dishonest practices - likely due to the fact that some of these yeshivas are employment agencies and if they go under many will lose their jobs.

2) The yeshivas spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on recruitment efforts.

3) Yeshiva attendance in Israel has gone up from 2,400 in 2006-2007 to 3,200 in 2010-2011 despite the bad economy (and all the blogs and articles about difficult of paying tuition). That's a nearly 8% yearly increase.

4) All the other educators said they had never been approached with a bribe. I find that hard to believe. Why is the principal in CHAT special? Even if no other yeshivas tried to bribe, the one that did didn't contact anyone else with the same offer? Stretched credulity.

5) Yeshivas are dumbing down the curriculum and making yeshiva more "fun" to get more students (and their tuition dollars). Some yeshivas similarly advertise as being far more rigorous than they really are.

6) The end of article cites several "well-known offenses" including bribery, bad-mouthing other schools, pressuring students to enroll, stringing students along, and using false advertising.

Orthonomics said...

JS-I really have no idea where to start commenting on the rest of the substance of the article, although I'd be happy to entertain comments from those with more knowledge of the recruiting. I've always viewed the "Israel Yeshiva Experience" as a business venture.

Hence, the accusations of "dumbing down" do not surprise me in the least. Bringing down the supply, thereby making admissions more difficult, would help in certain areas. What we have now is a high supply of seats, and from what I can see, not much of a tier system (e.g. "community college" programs vs. University type programs vs. specialized high-level type programs, the Cal-Tech's of Yeshivas). So, everyone is drawing from the same pool of students, more schools are created, the pressure to fill seats is on, and there is incentive to do all of the above.

I'm really sleepy right now, so I'm not sure my thoughts are at all clear. But I see the dumbing down and other offenses as related to a system that perhaps has too many seats. (Let's not forget that parents have demanded these seats. At least in the more RW world, there have been letters for years about how we can't "hurt" any girl by rejecting them from a program. So on the RW side too, there is a proliferation of programs).

Nonetheless, bribery is unacceptable and I'm gratified to see that without exception, the educators agreed that to be the case. Since there is no real oversight, I'm not clear what can be done except to discuss the issue and name names (something that has yet to be done). I take it YU can remove a program from its list of acceptable programs (for credit?), which is valuable on the more MO side, but might not make quite the splash since not everyone is headed to YU.

RAM said...

Instead of offering money to principals as a bribe or whatever, why don't these schools offer the same dollar amount as a scholarship to the first student(s) to sign up? This would keep things above board, as best I can tell.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the negative thoughts on the above.

The commentors mention that this is unlikely to be an isolated offer. From a (twisted) strategy perspective, these offers only make sense for the offerer if it would get their foot in the door with a new feeder school or drastically increase numbers from a school with seniors on the fence in terms of where they send people.


Anonymous said...

Who would be helped by having a reduced supply of seats and or an oversight of available schools? Is there any group that would gain, and therefore have a reason to work towards implementing such a process/system?

Individual students may gain (as long as they are not edged out by shorter supply).

Specific High schools would not.

Israeli Yeshivot/Seminaries could marginally, if they are vastly under capacity and are higher end. Otherwise, they do not.

Therefore, I don't see enough gain for a person/group to step forward and try to implement an improvement to the system.

Readers: What would need to change, to shift the balance described above? Is there anything a large segment of the spectrum (MO for instance) can do to make it worthwhile to change? calling out the specific Yeshiva may help in an isolated case, but is unlikely to have an overall impact in the greater picture.


Anonymous said...

Instead of offering kickbacks to the high school, offer a $1,000 scholarship to applicants who apply, are accepted, and commit to attend the school by a set date. That's an incentive in the right direction, it's above board and is known as marketing.

Mike S. said...

1) I am not sure how paying a commission, bribe or whatever you call is effective. (Note that this does not make it morally excusable.) When we looked into such things, the biggest impact was made by the experience of my kids' friends and my friends' kids who had been there a year or two before. A principal or rebbe might get me to look into a program, but couldn't "steer" me into one. $1000 seems awfully steep for just a lead.

2) What is the reason to raise academic standards across the board? There are plenty of rigorous programs for those who want them. Programs that have a strong element of volunteer work and interaction with Israeli society (I do not mean the bars, which unfortunately seem to be a large part of some of these programs) would be a valuable experience for many children. And would encourage aliyyah, which is important if we are not to repeat the mistakes our ancestors made at the beginning of the bayit sheini period.

mlevin said...

I suspected that there was some kind of compensation for a long time. Neither I nor my daughter wanted to go to the seminary, but we got numerous phone calls from school trying to get me to change my mind. My daughter was in many meetings where they tried to get her to change her mind, including a threat that without one she wouldn't be able to get married.

In addition, there are school approved seminaries and administration tries their hardest to make sure that girls end up applying and going only to those. Again there are many phone calls and parent/student meetings trying to steer girls in the "proper" direction.

Anonymous said...

I experienced that pressure to attend seminary as a 17 year old girl in a frum high school. I certainly don't think my principal accepted bribes - but he represented the yeshiva viewpoint and he was sure of his purpose and his purpose was to influence, or if unsuccessful at influence, to pressure girls in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Toronto and it is hard to imagine any yeshiva in Israel wanting a student from CHAT -- it was as close to a public school as one could get in the Jewish World, IMHO.

Paul Shaviv said...

== As the Director of Education at TanenbaumCHAT, and a reasonably regular reader of this blog, I have been following the thread. Thanks to all for their comments. In terms of follow-up, I have drafted and circulated a 'Code of Practice' for recruiters and High schools that will soon be posted on Lookjed, and which attempts to institute some sort of voluntary standards. "Anonymous' (the last post before this one) could not be more mistaken. We are a Community School, where every student does 12 hrs of Jewish Studies each week. The standard of our graduates is acknowledged, and most grads who go to Israel programs in Yeshivot and Seminaries (numbers vary, but up to 30 - 40 per year) go to Ivrit shiurim. They are heavily sought after.