We Don’t Need Substantially Similar Education – We are Already Ahead

“I am master of my spoken words and slave to those which remain unspoken.”
Author: Ankita Singhal


Dear Reader:
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.


19 thoughts on “We Don’t Need Substantially Similar Education – We are Already Ahead

  1. The big problem is that the hareidim (especially the Litvaks) teach that there’s something intellectually rigorous about learning their never ending parade of holy books. They hide behind the huge size of gemara and claim that studying it makes them somehow intellectually better than studying math, science etc. They lie about the Vilna Gaon being some sort of mathematical genius when in reality, all he knew was some basic Euclidean geometry. They even made up a story about him (since his last name was “Kramer”) being the genius behind “Cramer’s Rule of Solving Multiple Linear Equations”, In reality, Gabriel Crammer was a gentile Swiss genius from Zurich. They have been lying about the greatness of “Talmudic Scholarship” and “gedolim” to keep generation after generation ghettoized and under their power. By admitting that there is merit to learning secular disciplines (math, science, Western history etc), they lose their control.

  2. Bottom line is, if you want to continue to receive PUBLIC FUNDS for your private school. you will have to comply with the rules that come along with that money. Otherwise, go fund it yourself!

    • @Anonymous in NY 12.6.16 11:42am

      They receive public funds without complying with the rules that come along with the money. Thus far there has been very little oversight on those rules. We are waiting to see how they profit from the DeVoz plan to provide vouchers. Will she also enforce a “substantially similar” standard of NYS. We think not but time will tell. The saddest part for us is that the speaker was well versed, polished, eloquent. His audience is largely comprised of people who, while growing up in the United States (many in New York) cannot finish a grammatically correct sentence in English. It is an impossible situation with an unsustainable future.

  3. Nomsane-Thanks for pointing that out. It seems to me in Rockland those are the kids most deprived of an education-it’s a shame.

  4. nomsame-How many doctors, lawyers, accountants and researchers have come out of New Square?
    How many from UTA? Every year East Ramapo has kids that go on to Ivy League colleges, unfortunately you don’t hear about those kids.

  5. They are afraid.

    Afraid .. that what has happened to the Christians will happen to them. The young generation has stopped believing in the mumbo jumbo. Yes, they believe in kindness, respect to all, democracy, but not that Jesus was dead and then was not; that eating that wafer meaning they are eating the oso ish, and other nonsense.

    Same with the Rebbes. They are afraid of losing their power as people acquire more scientific knowledge. Hence no more money from the masses; no more power over their people. No the average intelligent person says, they do not have a pipleline to God; they have a pipeline to their Swiss bank accounts behind closed doors…

    Yes they are deathly afraid as they see more & more of their sects either up and leave and letting them hold the bag… or these confused young people kill themselves ore lose themselves in drugs…


    • @ Flatbusher December 4, 2016

      They are not only telling us how to educate our children but diverting funds from those who learn a well-rounded slate of studies to those children who have continued within the public school system. England has begun to crack down. Canada has been cracking down and is increasing efforts. New York State, on the other hand has not only allowed the education of these yeshivah children to go unchecked but has assisted them through welfare and other subsidies while also turning a blind eye to the travesty that is education in many yeshivas in New York. We don’t think they should be afraid. We think that we should.

  6. Haredim are not, and never have been, concerned with truth.

    Their concern is solely with the “truth” as their world requires it to be seen. Its the self serving sets of myths they would perpetuate as truths. Is it any wonder that they are terriffied of education and exposure to alternative perspectives? They know that their nonsense cannot ultimately stand up to scrutiny by anyone who is not prepared to lie to themselves.

  7. Yeshivas provide excellent secular studies to students. Some Yeshivas better than others. Parents not Agudah need to do their research to find Yeshivas with high standards. The Charedi community and Yeshiva system has produced the brightest and best in Medicine , Law, accounting. And research. Put your child in The public school system that produces the brightest and the worst hooligans is that also the fault of Agudah.

      • @ Anonymous – December 6, 2016 12:24 PM

        Perhaps you might remove the four-letter words and post something of value. While we agree that your response is likely to an Agudath child, your response could perhaps be a little more expressive in regards to problems with his comments rather than personal attacks.

    • My child has received a Medical degree, a fellowship, a Masters of Science and has sat on two boards interviewing and accepting Med school candidates. I have asked how many ultra-Orthodox candidates were granted interviews to the two Medical Schools for which she has reviewed candidates. Her reply; None. Their academics did not qualify them as they were missing most, if not all the pre-requisite courses in order to qualify. Several applied, but their applications were missing sections. Yeshivas do not prepare their students for anything outside of a shul. Let me go one step further; I am in a completely different profession than my child. I have to hire candidates out of a pool of students approved by my licensing body. To date, I have NEVER had an ultra-orthodox candidate acceptable to my practice. The academics just are not there. I could not justify even paying my firm’s base salary. Anyone who says that Yeshiva education is superior, is frankly fooling themselves and anyone who pays them heed.

    • @nomsame – December 4, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

      In an ideal world, parents would do their research and send their kids to schools with a full set of substantially similar educational subjects – including science, math and English. But most don’t. They listen to the Rabbis who themselves may have received a praiseworthy education. Please, tell us who in the Charedi community in recent years can be deemed the brightest and the best in Medicine, Law and accounting. You so nonchalantly bash the public school system and deem all those who attend (broad brush strokes) as “hooligans.” Well, how clever of you. It is remarkable, at least in New York, that many of the children graduating the Ramapo Central School District can make anything of themselves. The money to support their education was filtered out to Yeshivas so children could graduate who cannot speak English beyond an 8th grade education. You have created a circular argument, substantiated by the realities of the real world.

  8. “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.

    He is 100% correct. Knowledge is power. Knowledge helps one throw off the yoke of oppression. Or at least, the rule by fear of the sect.

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