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Cooking or Gemara?


The Government at Westminster (U.K.) has announced that it intends to make cooking a compulsory subject in schools. It is worried about rising obesity and thinks that if you teach kids to cook they will eat more healthily.

Gosh, aren’t politicians a dumb lot! If they do learn to cook they’ll more likely deep-fry chips and meat patties or heat up ready-made hamburgers. And if they want to eat healthy they can make a Salad Nicoise without cookery lessons. Official exam results might be getting better but in fact employers complain that high school kids have lower levels of literacy and numeracy than before. Wouldn’t it be better to spend money on dealing with the serious shortage of mathematics and science teachers?

Now I have issues with ultra-Orthodox education and its limited horizons. But it achieves three things. It ensures that virtually every kid gets to read fluently. It doesn’t matter in what language. It’s a transferable skill. It emphasizes numbers, because you can’t make your way through Gemara without having a good grasp of basic mathematics. And, above all, it forces one to learn by heart, which is a much overlooked mental discipline.

Secular educational experts ought to get over their prejudices and look at what the graduates of yeshivas achieve in basic skills, even if those basic skills are extremely limited and there is no connect between what they learn and getting a job. But armed with basic skills, if or when you do decide to go for a job, give me Gemara over cooking any day of the week!

4 thoughts on “Cooking or Gemara?

  1. In my cookery lessons (aka Domestic Science) we were told we’d be making Welsh Rarebit, a dish I’d never heard of and didn’t think sounded kosher. Matters were explained; it wasn’t a posh way of pronouncing rabbit but cheese on toast with an egg on top. I was even more confused that a lesson was required. I suppose though that the lessons could be regarded as cultural education and perhaps that’s what the present initiative is about too.

  2. Well, in my Jewish School we were served up Yorkshire pudding on a Friday night noch!! Be interesting to know if in USA Jewish schools they teach them to use kosher bacon substitute!!

  3. Gemara over cooking. Unless you go to work in a restaurant ofcourse. In my area two new restaurants and one deli have opened over the past two years. The young men who work their have achieved parnosa through their cooking skills not their gamara skills. My son who goes to a local school where gemara is given top priority has told me that cooking will soon be taught to the boys. I heard him discussing this with one of his friends who thought this was ” cool ” he loved cooking. His friend is in the A group for everything including gamara. Surely we need a balance? Academic and artistic, intellectual and vocational, kodesh and chol?

  4. You are absolutely right! I have no answer to that. Of course I think its good for boys to learn to cook. I learned how to but it was self-taught first at Yeshiva in Israel and then at university! Been experimenting ever since. But the question only arises where priorities are inverted and funds are limited.

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