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In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2005 / 4 Kislev, 5766

Exclusive schools

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Should schools cater to an elite? | Q. Some schools in my area try to maintain a student body drawn from the "best" families. Is this an ethical practice?

A. Some institutions feel that qualifications are only part of the story; students from a certain elite family background contribute to the social, religious or cultural atmosphere due to their upbringing, and this constitutes an important element of the school atmosphere.

Our Sages discussed this idea in a number of places, and generally reached the conclusion that an exclusive approach is counterproductive.

Mishnah tractate "Avos," also known as "Ethics of the Fathers," deals with two main topics: character development and the transmission of Torah. These two topics are intimately connected in our tradition. The very first mishnah tells us that the members of the Great Assembly, who were the bearers of the Torah tradition immediately following the period of prophecy, admonish us to "raise many students." Why would we think otherwise?

An ancient commentary explains:

The school of Shammai say, only teach one who is wise, modest, of good descent, and wealthy. The school of Hillel say, teach every person, for there were many delinquents in Israel who were drawn to Torah study, and among them came saintly, pious and righteous individuals. (1)

The academy of the great sage Shammai were of the opinion that advanced Torah studies should be for an elite group, who are specially qualified through ability and upbringing to devote themselves to serious study. But the academy of Hillel concluded that people of any background could benefit from Torah study, and furthermore that even people of undistinguished background could excel.

Which approach was vindicated? We see that the mishnah supports the approach of Hillel, but there is a passage in the Talmud which elaborates on the reason:

For three years the academies of Shammai and Hillel were in dispute, these saying "The law is according to our understanding" and these saying "The law is according to our understanding." A Heavenly Voice emerged and said: "These and these are the words of the Living G-d, and the law is according to the school of Hillel." Now, since these and these are both the words of the Living G-d, why did the school of Hillel merit that the law was established according to them? Because they were unassuming and humble, and they would study their own opinions and also the opinions of the school of Shammai. Not only that, they would even give precedence to the opinions of the school of Shammai. (2)

Besis Shammai's attempt to screen out arrogant and unruly prospects was totally counterproductive: it was precisely the students of Hillel, aware of their weaknesses, who felt the obligation to give equal or even superior consideration to opposing opinions, leading to more enlightened judgment, as the Heavenly Voice testified.

A more extensive presentation is found in the following Talmudic passage:

Be solicitous of the sons of the poor, for from among them Torah will go forth; as it is written (Numbers 24:7) "Water will flow from his pail," meaning that Torah will proceed from them. And why indeed are Torah scholars not found among the children of Torah scholars? Rav Yosef said, So that they shouldn't say that the Torah is an inheritance. Rav Sheshes the son of Rav Idi says, so that they shouldn't insulate themselves from the community. Mar Zutra says, because they come to dominate the community. (3)

The wisdom of our Sages is not in need of my support, but from my experience I view these considerations are valid today more than ever. I observe that schools that strive for an exclusive student body (based on family background) tend to suffer from all these ills. The level of studies suffers due to complacency ("the Torah is an inheritance"), the students develop a demeaning attitude towards others (insulation from the community), and ultimately elitism is used as a way to achieve power (domination of the community).

By contrast, those institutions which adopt an inclusive, reaching-out approach succeed in combining admirable levels of academic achievement with dynamism and a sincere sense of fellowship and belonging.

SOURCES: (1) Avos deRebbe Nosson 1:3. (2) Babylonian Talmud 13b. (3) Nedarim 81a.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics