From the Rockland Voice – http://rocklandvoice.com/opinion/the-woman-who-was-not-educated-in-a-yeshiva/
The Woman Who Was Not Educated By A Yeshiva
Confronts The County Legislators Who Claim They Were.
By: Julie D. Globus
“To be a Jew sitting in that room was an embarrassment.”
On Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in the Rockland County Legislature all of the children of Rockland County were stripped of their rights to have their county legislature enforce New York’s requirement of a “substantially similar” education. Parents were denied the most fundamental of rights, to protect their children and see that they are educated; and a community was discharged of its ability to report a school, any school, that is not educating children to standards set by the State. The plundering of these rights was left in the hands of two men, each of whom based his decision on a desire for inequality over equality, for ignorance over knowledge and for insularity over integration. It was a tragedy of epic proportions to watch unfold and it will forever shape Rockland County’s weak approach to New York State’s Education Laws.
Fundamentally and legally what was being voted for or against was a memorializing resolution which is best described as a memorandum of support related to a bill drafted by New York State Assemblyman, Kenneth Zebrowski. Zebrowski’s Albany bill, at its core provides a method of enforcement for a poorly drafted New York State law related to education. The present law requires that publicly funded private schools offer a “substantially similar” education as public schools. However, New York’s law is lacking both in the definition of “substantiality” and in its enforcement provisions to uphold that law.
A vote in favor of the memorandum of support by the members of the Multiservices Committee, chaired by Legislator Soskin, would have brought the memorandum before the full County Legislature on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 for its vote of certain approval.
While rational minds in all communities should have advocated zealous support for the memorandum and for the change in the Albany law it was designed to support, the two Legislators who shot it down and killed it in their committee, Soskin and Wieder, framed the memorandum into a “Jewish Question” rather than an education question.
Legislator Aron Wieder, in a remarkable rant quoting George Washington, spoke of his beautiful children, spoke of the salaries within the ultra-Orthodox community that are higher than in non-Orthodox communities, spoke of disingenuous depiction of welfare and other laws and then, in showmanship worthy of an Oscar, he threw a report into his trashcan that was drafted by YAFFED (Young Advocates For A Fair Education whose leader grew up a Hasid).
Wieder’s actions prove that there is a fundamental problem within the Rockland County ultra-Orthodox community related to the deprivation of a basic education in core subjects such as science and mathematics.
Legislator Soskin, the leader of the MultiServices Committee, praised me and my comments to the county legislature, which were both in Hebrew and in English. I was vigorously supporting the vote and imploring him to vote in favor of releasing the memorializing resolution from his committee so that the full membership of the county legislature could cast their votes. Soskin, in his biased ignorance, used me as the prime example of someone who is a “product of a yeshiva education.”
First and foremost, I did NOT graduate from Yeshiva – I went to a public school where I was in the racial minority but I grew up in a house where education, beyond all else, was paramount. My school education was supplemented by Hebrew School, finance, music, multiple languages, mathematics, science, horticulture, photography, woodworking and vocabulary. Had there been more hours in the day, my parents likely would have subjected me to additional subjects. Legislator Soskin spoke of parents’ right to educate their child as they sees fit regardless of the parameters of that education, all antithetical to NYS law.
What occurred at the committee meeting spoke volumes about the exploitation of religion as a veil of secrecy and the clever use of politics to scream anti-Semitism by several legislators in the Rockland County legislature.
To be a Jew sitting in that chamber was an embarrassment. To watch the children who believed themselves to be losing out if the vote passed was a travesty insofar as it pointed to how easily children can be indoctrinated and led to follow whatever is being taught whether guided or misguided. To watch Jewish orthodox parents speak out against the bill exemplified the manipulation of the intent of the bill, couched by that community in terms of an attack against a way of life the community holds dear. To listen to the emotional stories of those who came out of a yeshiva system that robbed them of a secular education was heartbreaking.
One woman and her child got up and spoke against the memorandum claiming that she sent her children to Yeshiva and that the Yeshiva in question does a better job of educating its children than the public schools. Perhaps the one she spoke of does do a better job. I wouldn’t doubt it – there are many yeshivas as excellent as many other private religious schools and to be honest many of the public schools are, in my view, grossly inadequate. This bill would have protected publicly educated children as well. But if her comments were of the importance of a quality education, they should have registered her as a supporter of the vote, which would not have affected her in the least. She should have been imploring support of a vote so that more of the schools sharing her value system achieve the highest standards of which she spoke.
In the most remarkable words to be spoken by Legislator Aron Wieder in any public meeting to date, he justified his disdain for Democratic Assemblyman Zebrowski’s bill by quoting from a letter written by George Washington. His choice of historical reference was perfect when taken in a vacuum and a clever means to gaslight people into believing the Zebrowski bill was an attempt at curtailing the free practice of religion.
Legislator Wieder neglected to provide context to Washington’s words. The letter from Washington was written in response to Moses Seixas who spoke on behalf of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport in 1789, at a time when Rhode Island was needed for ratification of the Constitution. Seixas in his letter to George Washington, made reference to a long standing tradition of discrimination which prevented Jews from becoming free citizens, free to practice their religion and to worship in their synagogues.
President Washington’s reply, a poignant example of both Washington’s intellectual capacity and his diplomacy as read by Wieder is as follows:
“Happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection
should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their
effectual support… . May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this
land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every
one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make
Legislator Wieder’s beautifully rehearsed but misleading diatribe supporting his rejection of the vote on the memorializing resolution, referred to “our great Constitution” (a play on both the Constitution of the United States and the Torah) and he neglected to inform his constituency that the correspondence between Washington and the Jewish communities was a form of diplomacy to gain Rhode Island’s support for the ratification of “our great Constitution”. The correspondence between the Jewish community and Washington also formed the basis for the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791, which critically included the right to redress.
Remarkably, the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
For Wieder, sitting in safety under the “vine and fig tree” is an imperative, as it should be. The right to redress, however, is to be ignored.
Sadly the words of Legislator Soskin and Legislator Wieder did nothing if not prove that the ultra-Orthodox community on whose behalf they spoke does not want oversight. They do not want transparency. They do not want their schools to be required to teach core subjects and to enforce a policy that requires it, because it will also alter the way in which the children within that community are indoctrinated, shielded from exposure to the outside world and introduced to a path to a future that might one day mean leaving that community. They would prefer to hold children and their families hostage.
For Mr. Wieder it boiled down to religious freedom free of redress. For Legislator Soskin it was a matter of condensing the discussion into the freedom of a parent to choose a specific education without fear of community intervention if that education is inadequate.
Well, Legislator Soskin, I ask you this: “When does the community have the right to intervene on behalf of its children? If it takes a village to raise a child, is it not then the community’s responsibility if that child is deprived, neglected, harmed, destroyed or otherwise disenfranchised?”
In a very slippery slope, Legislators Wieder and Soskin have all but guaranteed that the future of the private school educated children of Rockland County, Jewish or otherwise, is uncertain, fraught with potential hardships, poverty, social and educational neglect.
As an unintended consequence they have all but paved the way for publicly educated children to be similarly disenfranchised, destroying not only the future of those children being taught in private inadequate settings, Jewish or otherwise but also future public education within this great State of New York.
[Editor’s Note: Legislator Soskin seems to have been unaware of Ms. Globus’ educational credits. In 1991 she graduated with honors from Skidmore College with a BA in Government and Philosophy which she completed in 3 years. Following graduation, Julie accepted a grant to attend The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus in Israel for one year. While she did not speak the language when she left for Israel, at the end of the year Julie was offered a scholarship towards completion of her MA, which in 1995 she earned with honors in Political Theory, studying mainly in Hebrew. Julie returned to the US to earn her law degree from Rutgers Law School.
She has written numerous articles about local affairs in Rockland Voice and has written a previous opinion piece addressed to Legislator Wieder entitled: An Open Letter To Legislator Wieder – Anti-Semitism, A Label Used As A Shield Against Scrutiny]