Saturday, January 22, 2005

Israel won't recognize U.S. yeshiva students' degrees

Wow. Kill two birds, Aliyah and Students coming after high school, with one stone-head.

Is it just me or does the Israeli Government seems to do everything in it's power to PREVENT Aliyah from North America? The only politically correct word I can come up with for this new stroke of genius from the Ministry of Education is disturbing.

See for yourself:

Israel won't recognize U.S. yeshiva students' degrees
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Ministry of Education is refusing to recognize undergraduate diplomas issued by U.S. universities that accept a year of yeshiva study in Israel as degree credits. As a result, many North American immigrants who have studied in institutions such as Yeshiva University cannot get their degrees recognized here.

This is true even for people who have master's degrees from another university, since once the undergraduate degree is deemed invalid, any subsequent postgraduate degrees are not accepted either. For those working in the public sector, this means reduced income, because pay scales shift significantly depending on a person's academic standing.

An angry Richard Joel, the president of Yeshiva University, told Haaretz that he would be taking up the issue with the Israeli authorities.

"Never, ever has an accrediting body or a graduate school ever had the slightest question about the stature of a Yeshiva University degree," he said. "Harvard University gladly accepts our undergraduates to their law schools and medical schools. The notion that the Ministry of Education questions the integrity of Yeshiva University degrees boggles the mind."

Aliya officials fear the restriction could harm immigration from North America, which reached a 20-year high in 2004. The Ministry of Education confirms its policy and does not give any indication it will change in the near future.

Adina Sacknovitz, a North American immigrant with a bachelor's degree from Yeshiva University and a master's degree in psychology from Columbia University, is viewed by the ministry as holding only a high school diploma, and is paid accordingly.

As a school psychologist in Jerusalem, she said, the state uses her expertise but won't pay her for it. Her Columbia degree has been recognized by the Ministry of Health, but not by the Ministry of Education - which in effect allows her to practice as a psychologist, but not get paid like one. "It's very frustrating because it's as if I have no degrees," the recent immigrant complained.

For the immigrant community, this newest barrier could prove to affect hundreds, if not thousands, of new arrivals. The certification of doctoral degrees from abroad has been frozen by the Education Ministry over the past two years because fraudulent degrees have trickled their way into the Israeli educational system, and some immigrant officials report a similar freezing of master's degrees as well.

But immigrant officials say that the restrictions have reached a new low recently, with a reluctance to recognize valid bachelor's degrees. Those in the immigrant community are left trying to combat a new, infuriating restriction that seems, to them at least, to have appeared without notice.

"This is a completely new problem and if they [the Ministry of Education] sent a warning, I never got it," said Daniella Slasky, director of employment for Nefesh B'Nefesh, who has handled a handful of complaints on the issue in recent weeks.

According to Slasky, many universities, with the exception of those in the Ivy League, accept credits from post-high school yeshiva studies in Israel, leaving immigrants who studied in recognized and accredited universities in the U.K. and the U.S. with a diploma that the ministry refuses to recognize. For YU alumni, some 80 percent of whom studied in Israeli post-high school yeshivas, the restriction could present a serious barrier to immigration.

Slasky could not provide exact figures as to the number of recent immigrants likely to be affected by this ban, but with religious aliya on the rise, the number, she predicted, was "high."

In his year and a half since immigrating to Israel, David Debow, also a graduate of Yeshiva University, has not managed to get his YU degree certified. Debow, who now teaches at a junior high school in Beit Shemesh and is an ordained rabbi, has a master's degree in education from a state university in Ohio. But as in Sacknovitz's case, both degrees have been rendered useless.

"It makes me feel like an immigrant in the negative sense [of the word] - like I have been demoted and asked to start back at square one, not as a function of my ability to contribute to this new society but in deference to some unspoken social pecking order," he said this week. "In fairness, I do recognize the problem that the Ministry of Education is grappling with. There are many fraudulent degrees out there that cheapen the value of our hard earned degrees. Supervision is necessary. But there must be a more efficient and equitable way."

"If a Yeshiva University degree is good enough for Harvard, Yale and Columbia," he added, "it should be good enough for the Ministry of Education."

Education Ministry spokesman Shauli Pe'er said in response: "The recognition of degrees by the Ministry of Education is for salary purposes only and does not impact on any other professional or academic evaluation. Since the ministry's evaluation is used for salary purposes, it is subject to rules set by the Civil Service Commission and the Finance Ministry. Based on these rules, credits from a non-academic institution, such as a yeshiva, cannot be recognized. Based on the same set of rules, a person cannot have a recognized master's degree without holding a recognized bachelor's degree."

But Nefesh B'Nefesh's Slasky refused to accept this explanation. "These olim are not being paid or recognized the way they should be," she argued. "It's discriminatory against immigrants with degrees from abroad who are being paid on such a low salary scale. Will they recognize [newly appointed Bank of Israel governor] Stanley Fischer's degree?"

UPDATE: Am Echad also posted this and Failed Messiah has information on where to send your complaints!


Blogger amechad said...

As I mentioned, they are also not verifying degrees that have AP credits as part of the graduation requirements.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Pinchas said...

Yep. Truth I don't think that they don't know what AP credits are - I think they just pretend they don't know what they are! We need some more capitalism in Israel and a lot less socialism. Let free maarket, not the gov't set the salaries. In the Public sector in the US there is a concept "degree or equvilant work experiance." BTW I voted for you Am Echad - good luck!

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you would have to go to Israel now for yeshiva?

5:42 PM  

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