How Can a $5M STEM Grant Benefit Yeshiva Students Who Are not Taught STEM Subjects? Are they?

Orthodox Yeshivas Claim to Need STEM Funding To Hire STEM Teachers. But, They Do NOT Teach Their Students STEM Subjects.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We are the first to advocate for, if not demand the teaching of STEM subjects to ALL schoolchildren. We believe that it is fundamentally neglectful that children are not raised on a core curricula including STEM subjects. But, dream as we may…

That advocacy is all for naught. Yeshivas do not teach their students science, technology, engineering and math. They do not allow their students on the internet (unless it is Kosher) and they do not by implication teach STEM subjects. They therefore should not be getting money geared toward the hiring of STEM teachers, when that money will inevitably and inherently not be used for that purpose.  It is the same scam as e-rate, which was money intended to be used for computer equipment. It’s an oxymoron, Jumbo Shrimp – so-to-speak.

We consistently state that the core values of the separation of church and state in the United States demands that public funds not be used for private education, particularly not education based upon religion, any religion. We stand by our position that all school children should be given a core education including English, History and, of course, STEM. But to hand over a $5M grant for  that purpose is flushing money down the proverbial toilet, throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

It would be wasted funding which should be given to PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN or alternatively to private schools that can adequately validate that the money is being used for its intended purpose, to teach STEM subjects. The two years given to certify teachers is too much time for the contract to be upheld, too easily forgotten. 

Finally, while this grant is being offered up in New Jersey and is largely intended for both public and private school children, we believe that to deny the public school children who will actually benefit from the hiring of teachers is a travesty. If a private school is willing to become accredited before receiving any funds, we might feel differently. 

Lakewood STEM grant meeting

Representatives from among Lakewood’s 127 yeshivas join teachers from the district’s public schools and others during an information meeting Tuesday on a state grant program that will pay STEM teachers to moonlight in private schools.Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media For

We need STEM teachers, Orthodox schools say. $5M grant will help pay for them.

The K-8 Toldos Yaakov Yosef yeshiva in Lakewood does have its own science and math teachers, officials of the K-8 school say.

But, added Principal Baruch Hochman, “They’re not certified.”

And therefore, Hochman said, STEM-related classes for Toldos Yaakov Yosef’s 220 Orthodox Jewish students are not as advanced as the school would like.

So, Hochman and a colleague from the school, known as TYY, were among dozens of representatives of Lakewood yeshivas who had attended an informational meeting at Lakewood High School about a new state grant program that will pay eligible public school teachers to teach STEM classes in private schools.

More than 100 men in black coats and yarmulkes and women dressed in skirts, woolen stockings and flats gathered in the LHS auditorium. Some were among the 21 Lakewood public school faculty members who had volunteered for the program, including Orthodox and non-Jewish teachers. None of them said they were volunteering for the program for the extra pay, which will be an hourly wage based on their regular pay.

“I love math,” said Maryan Mikhail, a Lakewood algebra teacher who is a Coptic Christian originally from Egypt. “I like to give it to the students.”

Hochman said the religious or other backgrounds of the STEM teacher would make no difference to him or the yeshiva’s Orthodox families.

“As long as they’re ethical and they respect the religion,” Hochman said.

The grant program sets aside a total of $5 million for the program’s first year, 2020-21, to pay public school teachers who inform their district they would like to be placed on a list of participants compiled by each county superintendent of schools and made available to private schools looking for STEM teachers, whose email addresses are included on the list.

The private schools, which can look for teachers beyond the district or county in which they’re located, then reach out directly to teachers they’re interested in. If the teacher wants the work, he or she then works with their district and the private school to arrive at a teaching schedule that does not interfere with the teacher’s normal public school classes.

To be eligible, teachers must either be STEM certified, enrolled in a STEM certification program, or pledge in writing to enroll in a program within 2 years. Education department and public school officials say the eligibility requirement will benefit public school students as well as private, by encouraging more teachers to earn their certification.

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2 thoughts on “How Can a $5M STEM Grant Benefit Yeshiva Students Who Are not Taught STEM Subjects? Are they?

  1. LM –

    I am not sure why the Orthodox community even wanted this grant to have STEM subjects to be taught in their schools. The Orthodox men and women, at least the majority, are not going to go onto be doctors,
    engineers, nurses, tech workers, science PhD’s, so why the need to educate them in a strong STEM curriculum? The Orthodox who want to can supplement their education at a community college or other avenues.

    NJ has excellent public schools that have a strong STEM curriculum and magnet schools for these subjects.
    For example, traditionally Asians (Indian, Chinese, Koreans), other non-Jess and even the Modern Orthodox go onto have careers in the sciences. But the Orthodox? Sounds quite strange. Why not give the funding to under-served communities whose children have a far greater likelihood to have careers in the sciences with these resources.

    Would like your feedback on this.


    • Your question is exactly the one we posited. At the New Jersey conference against anti-Semitism in Hackensack several weeks ago, the announcement was made that money would be available by grant to bring STEM into the schools. It should be available, to public schools and magnet schools that teach these subjects or to Yeshivas that currently have STEM in their curriculum. Not sure if there are any beyond Schechter and some of the other forward-thinking schools. If this money gets doled out to private yeshivas, it will be a travesty. It will be no different than the e-rate money that was distributed and not used.


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