“I am master of my spoken words and slave to those which remain unspoken.”
Author: Ankita Singhal
In our view the most appalling part of this video is Rabbi Zweibel’s insistence that the problem is not Agudath Israel and its policies regarding education amongst its many failings, but the voices of dissent. Former members of the Orthodox community, he says, are simply dissatisfied with their education, disgruntled consumers.
Rabbi Zweibel, who is very eloquent, has not accepted criticism nor blame. He does not acknowledge those within the audience who can barely finish a sentence in English (despite living in English speaking countries). He stated in no uncertain terms that Agudath Israel is a wonderful organization having done extensive and wonderful things and the education is better than secular education.
There is no mention of the need to train children to learn science and math, they are educated better in Yeshiva. According to Rabbi Zweibel, the voices of dissent are simply adults who cannot accept blame for themselves so they have placed it elsewhere.
Rabbi Zweibel, we commend your command of the English language, your dress, your pressed look and your polish. It is unfortunate that you are a dying breed, one you have helped kill, the Orthodox Jew who is well-educated, well-spoken, well-read, well-researched and has a glorious future. Where will your community be when few can speak English, learn enough to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators, artists, musicians?
“Every one must understand that, whatever be the evil of slavery, it is not increased by its diffusion. Every one familiar with it knows that it is in proportion to its sparseness that it becomes less objectionable. Wherever there is an immediate connexion between the master and slave, whatever there is of harshness in the system is diminished.”
Author: Jefferson Davis
Agudath Israel’s Message to America: “We aren’t substantially equivalent. We are way, way, way ahead.”
Yesterday we indicated that we would publish a speech given at the recent Agudah conference in which people like Naftuli Moster and politicians from Rockland were criticized for their advocacy of more secular education in Hasidic Yeshivas. Many of you may recall Preserve Rockland had the pleasure of hosting a visit by Naftuli Moster to Nanuet where he spoke about his education in a Yeshiva.
According to the speaker, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive VP of Agudath Israel, “the most serious challenge the yeshiva community has ever faced” is the growing chorus of voices calling on yeshivas to provide a sound secular English, Math and Science education as required by law.
Notwithstanding the fact that educational neglect in yeshivas, from which third- and fourth-generation Americans graduate functionally illiterate in English, affects our society at large, Zwiebel blithely dismisses some educational reformers from his own religious community as merely “disaffected” and “disenchanted” former yeshiva students. He uses the Yiddish term “nebach” to describe educational advocates, which translates to “an unfortunate person.” He seems to dismiss the standard of “substantially equivalent” – that is, nonpublic schools that receive public funding are required by law to provide a “substantially equivalent” secular education. He seems to lament – lament! – that these “unfortunate people” are claiming “the government is not doing its job” when it comes to enforcing substantial equivalency.
These “unfortunate people” are absolutely right – the government is not doing its job. Instead of lamenting over reformers, we as part of the greater modern and integrated society applaud their efforts to provide every single child with a sound basic education, inarguably a fundamental human right.
As it stands now, Zwiebel and the yeshiva community are having their cake and eating it too. They teach what they want, when they want – and with taxpayers’ money. “We know that, Baruch Hashem [thank God], in our yeshivas, we have a dual program of instruction, with many hours – most hours devoted to [religious studies] and a relatively small amount of time devoted to [secular studies],” Zwiebel says, adding that thanks to the Agudath Israel’s robust lobbying apparatus, “resources come flowing into the yeshiva system.” ‘Resources’ is a convenient euphemism for ‘taxpayer dollars’.
Threatening this comfortable, taxpayer-fleecing status quo is a bill floated by Rockland County Assembly-members Zebrowski and Jaffee that would “expand upon the requirement of substantial equivalency” in nonpublic schools, in turn ensuring a secular education in nonpublic schools that is “similar in rigor, allotted time and subject.”
The consequences of noncompliance would range from withholding any apportionment of public funding to permanently revoking a nonpublic school’s registration and prohibiting it from operating. Zwiebel notes that 39 yeshivas in New York City are currently the subject of a government investigation, and makes an astonishing admission: “If this bill were to become law, it’s not just 39 yeshivas. Unless I’m mistaken, it would be every single yeshiva that would be challenged for its compliance with the law.”
Book-ending his legislative discussion is an all-too-familiar allegation; according to Zwiebel “the sponsors of this bill are people who happen to represent the communities in East Ramapo,” and it is “anti-Semitism at the local level” that prompted “these particular legislators to introduce this bill.”
Which is it: “disaffected” alumni of yeshivas or legislators fueled by “anti-Semitism”?
Once again, we are presented with the argument that the problem is either the self-hating Jew or the Jew hater – for Agudath Israel, there is apparently no such thing as recognizing legitimate, rational critique from people who neither hate themselves nor their neighbors. There is no recognition that those who critique may actually be practicing ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’.
Zwiebel makes it clear he’ll have none of this “substantially equivalent” talk and makes a remark that suggests he views himself and his community as superior to the non-Orthodox Jewish community. “We aren’t ‘substantially equivalent,” he says, “we’re way, way, way ahead.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
Zwiebel asks, incredulously, how yeshivas can be forced to teach “the way the non-Jewish world educates their children,” whereupon he seemingly makes the case for a clear separation of church and state. He cites a recent government-imposed shutdown of a yeshiva in England, purportedly because the school “didn’t teach respect as is required by law for the various orientations and identities and relationships which have become so dominant in today’s world” … “We can’t teach these things!”, he says.
That’s perfectly fine if you wish to shelter your children from the progressive evolution and egalitarianism of a modern integetrated society living in a democratic republic. Indeed, a fundamental component of a free society is freedom of religion. If teaching “respect” abhors yeshiva values, by all means, don’t teach it. But don’t take taxpayers’ money – the money of hardworking Americans of all races and creeds, of all “orientations and identities and relationships.”
You see the flip side of freedom OF religion is freedom FROM religion.