At the Heichal HaTorah school of New Jersey, faculty have begun a unique experiment in secular studies. Elliot Kaufman explains. (Registration required.)
At some Orthodox schools, subjects such as English, history, and math take a back seat to the analysis of Jewish texts. Others, especially in Modern Orthodox communities, dial back the Judaic studies somewhat to provide rigorous all-around education. They usually do that, however, by aping top secular schools, adopting progressive curricula that can be hostile to traditional values.
Heichal HaTorah is evidence that there’s a better way. . . . Heichal’s honors students display impressive range in the classroom. Back in June, ninth-graders were reading Meister Eckhart, a German medieval theologian, and discussing the West’s evolving understanding of God and man. A question arose and a student shouted a relevant line from the Torah, quoting it in Hebrew. While I struggled to connect the dots, another student compared Eckhart’s view with an older one from myths about Hercules. A third cited Cicero. . . .
Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin [is] the principal instructor of the honors track at Heichal HaTorah, and he’s on a mission . . . to show Jews “what their religion has to do with their culture, and what their culture has to do with their religion.” . . . [I]f traditional schools are going to teach secular subjects, it makes sense to teach them traditionally. Rabbi Rocklin’s students deserve to learn the best the West has thought and said. It’s their patrimony, too.