In the Matter of
BETH MEDRASH EEYUAN HATALMUD
Docket No. 94-45-ST
Appearances: Leigh M. Manasevit, Esq., and Diane L. Vogel, Esq.,
Brustein & Manasevit,
Washington, D.C., for Respondent.
Renee Brooker, Esq., Office of
General Counsel, United States Department of
Education, Washington, D.C., for Student Financial Assistance Programs.
Before: Judge Richard I. Slippen
This termination proceeding is based on the alleged failure of
BMEH to satisfy the relevant statutory and regulatory definitions of an eligible institution under
the HEA. In order for
an institution such as BMEH to meet the definition of either an institution of higher education or
postsecondary vocational institution, the school must satisfy two criteria. The first criterion is
that the institution must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or
which is also recognized by the Secretary of Education. The satisfaction of the second criterion
depends upon the type of institution being considered for eligibility. An institution of higher
education must offer at least one program which either: 1) leads to an
associate, baccalaureate, graduate, or professional degree; 2) is at least a two-year program that
acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor's degree; or, 3) is at least a one-year training program
leading to a certificate or degree that prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized
occupation.See footnote 1
A post-secondary vocational institution such as BMEH must offer at least a six- month
training program leading to a certificate or degree that prepares students for gainful
employment in a recognized occupation.See footnote 2
Despite its inclusion in the Notice and extensive argument in
the pre-hearing briefs, the issue of BMEH's accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for
Continuing Education and
Training (ACCET), a nationally recognized accrediting association, counsel for SFAP informed
counsel for BMEH and this tribunal on August 1, 1995, that it would not present evidence at the
hearing relative to the accreditation claim. Additionally, SFAP made it clear that it would no
longer pursue the question of BMEH's proper accreditation. Thus, the only issue addressed at
evidentiary hearing and the single issue that both parties agree remains to be resolved is whether
BMEH meets the eligibility criteria of the HEA by providing its students with "not less
one-year program of training to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized
occupation." 20 U.S.C. § 1141(a). Both parties also agree that the recognized
relevant here is teaching; specifically what must be decided is whether or not BMEH's three
programs, the First Rabbinics, the Second Rabbinics, and the Judaic Studies program taught at
both its New York and Israel campuses prepare students for gainful employment as teachers.See footnote 3
SFAP presents numerous arguments as to why BMEH's programs
cannot meet the criteria
established by this tribunal for what constitutes an eligible teaching training program.
See In Re Seminar L'Moros Bais Yaakov, Dkt. No. 94-37-EA, U.S. Dep't of
Educ. (March 21, 1994); In Re Academy for Jewish Education, Dkt. No.
94-11-EA, U.S. Dep't of Educ. (March 23, 1994); In Re Academy for Jewish Education,
Dkt. No. 94-51-ST, U.S. Dep't of Educ. (August 1, 1995). SFAP argues that BMEH's curriculum
is neither designed nor intended to prepare students for gainful
employment as teachers. SFAP presented extensive testimony that the absence of courses in
educational methodology and educational psychology in BMEH's programs and its failure to
include any field training in the form of some sort of internship that would provide an
opportunity to practice teaching methods and interact with students in an actual school setting
indicates that BMEH does not provide a program that trains teachers.
Additionally, SFAP claims that BMEH's programs provide
scholarly instruction for
personal and professional enrichment in a strictly academic, not vocational, framework. SFAP
also argues that BMEH's placement rate for its graduates as teachers indicates that they do not
successfully train the vast majority of its students to become teachers. In testimony concerning
the independent study format utilized by BMEH, SFAP argues that the traditional methods used
to instruct students is also not consistent with a program that is designed or intended to prepare
students for gainful employment as teachers.See
Finally, SFAP argues that BMEH's programs are identical to those found to be ineligible
under the HEA in other cases before this tribunal.See
BMEH argues that SFAP has failed to meet its burden of proof in
accord with 34 C.F.R.
§668.88(c)(2) that the institution does not provide an eligible teacher training program.
Presenting extensive testimony from the faculty and staff of BMEH, members of the Ultra-
Orthodox Jewish community and other witnesses, BMEH urges this tribunal to find that the
school's "foremost goal has been to train its students to become teachers of religious
Ultra-Orthodox educational institutions." Respondent's Post-Hearing Brief at p. 1. BMEH
disputes SFAP's assertion that the failure to provide courses in educational methodology and
psychology and field training is compelling evidence that its program does not train teachers.
The testimony presented by BMEH repeatedly asserted that such courses have no place and
would be inconsistent with the centuries old Lithuanian tradition and teaching methods utilizing
mentors for its students and an independent study format employed by the institution. BMEH
does agree that its programs provide scholarly training which is designed to provide personal and
professional enrichment. However, BMEH argues that it has a dual mission that is not
inconsistent with its vocational objectives to train teachers. "Certainly the fact that BMEH
makes elevating the level of Torah scholarship and education an institutional objective as well,
does not invalidate its main purpose of preparing students for positions in the field of Jewish
education." Id. at p. 9.
BMEH also disputes the significance and interpretation placed on
the placement statistics
entered into evidence. SFAP relies on these statistics to support its claim that compared to the
number of students who enroll in BMEH and receive Title IV funds but fail to graduate, those
students who actually graduate and become teachers is alarmingly small. BMEH argues that
these placement statistics should be used primarily for purposes of comparison with established
benchmarks for job placement established by organizations such as ACCET. Id. at p. 23. Using
the ACCET formula, BMEH claims that it has very impressive job placement rates. See
BMEH Ex. 40 and 41.See footnote 6
Before ruling on the sole issue in this proceeding as to whether BMEH's three programs of study, First Rabbinics, Second Rabbinics, and Judaic Studies prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation, this tribunal must address that part of SFAP's argument concerning the absence of courses in educational methodology and psychology and student teaching. A major component of SFAP's argument at the evidentiary hearing, and much of the testimony of its expert witness, attempts to impose a standard on institutions that is neither required by law nor by previous decisions of this tribunal. Although the inclusion of courses in methodology, psychology, and some sort of student teaching is probative evidence that an institution's program is a teacher training program, there is no regulatory or statutory requirement that such courses and student teaching must be available in order to train teachers and prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. 20 U.S.C. § 1141(a).
The evidence, testimony, and exhibits in this case present a
definitive description of a
school whose programs are exacting and comprehensive in the teaching of Torah, Talmud,
classical Jewish texts, and tradition in what is known as the Lithuanian tradition.See footnote 7
The testimony of witnesses and a review of voluminous exhibits reflects that BMEH
provides an academic
background that could be used to teach in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish institution. Additionally,
the evidence is clear that BMEH's reputation as an institution in the Ultra-Orthodox community
is highly regarded and that prospective employers have been interested in, and have hired
graduates of BMEH, for teaching and administrative positions at other Jewish schools.
Nevertheless, while BMEH offers a rigorous academic course of study that would be invaluable
to a person who wished to teach in an Ultra-Orthodox school, I find that the evidence in this case
fails to support a finding that BMEH has as its purpose or aim the training of students to teach in
the field of Jewish education.
The programs at BMEH train its students to become scholars with in depth knowledge of classical Jewish texts and religious traditions. These scholars, some of whom have become teachers and administrators in other Ultra-Orthodox schools, are trained in a tradition that equips them to be leaders and role models in the Jewish community. As leaders and role models, these scholars are expected to use their knowledge and inspire others to study and contemplate classical Jewish texts and traditions. Additionally, many of BMEH's students and graduates are already employed in established professions and are seeking the benefit of a scholarly academic course of study for personal and spiritual growth, as well as enrichment not for the purpose of changing professions or embarking upon a new career path.
Despite the fact that some students and graduates have
subsequently obtained teaching
positions, I find that this is an incidental benefit of BMEH's programs. As the Judge said in In
Re Academy for Jewish Education, Dkt. No. 94-11-EA, U.S. Dep't of Educ. (March 23,
1994) at 3-4:
An examination of the history of this institution, its own statements in catalogues and reports to accrediting agencies, the backgrounds of its student population, and its centuries old tradition of instruction, persuades this tribunal that BMEH offers an admirable academic program not a program of study that has as its primary goal the training of students in preparation of gainful employment in a recognized occupation as required by 20 U.S.C. § 1141(a).
On the basis of the foregoing, it is hereby ordered that the
eligibility of Beth Medrash
Eeyun Hatalmud to participate in the student financial assistance programs authorized under
IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 be terminated.
Judge Richard I. Slippen
Dated: April 23, 1996