Millions in Defrauded Yeshiva Funds in Israel, the US Should be Paying Careful Attention to the Playbook

5 ultra-Orthodox men jailed for defrauding state in fake yeshiva student scam

 

Members of the Kehillat Hamatmidim community claimed NIS 24 million ($6.5 million) in financial support for hundreds of fictitious students

Matityahu Hirschman from “Kehillat Hamatmidim” arrives at Jerusalem District Court to hear the verdict in a case against him, on January 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday sentenced five ultra-Orthodox men to jail terms following their conviction for swindling millions of shekels from the Education Ministry by inflating the number of students learning at seminaries using forged identity papers and masses of impostors to fool school inspectors.

One of the defendants was sentenced to five years behind bars, four others were given sentences of between 16 months to four years, and another four defendants were give six months each, to be served as community service.

The defendants were also given fines of up to NIS 150,000 ($40,000) and the court ordered the eviction of public buildings belonging to the association which were involved in the scam, the Ynet website reported.

The senior figures in the Kehillat Hamatmidim community obtained some NIS 24 million ($6.5m) from the Education Ministry by providing authorities with details of hundreds of students it claimed were studying at its religious seminaries and learning institutes in their community — but were in fact forged details gleaned from Interior Ministry data leaked online in 2006 and apparently supplemented with photos of community members.

The defendants forged 1,650 identities and, in many cases, the same person’s photograph appeared on up to five different identity cards, before using the paperwork to apply for benefits for 25 different institutes.

According to prosecutors, the lists contained people who were not even learning in the seminaries or were members of ultra-Orthodox communities who refuse on principle to accept funding from the secular State of Israel. Others were found to be secular, the report said.

According to prosecutors, the lists contained people who were not even learning in the seminaries or were members of ultra-Orthodox communities who refuse on principle to accept funding from the secular State of Israel. Others were found to be secular, the report said.

Whenever Education Ministry inspectors came round to review the various seminaries, the defendants bused in the impostors to fill bench spaces and make up the numbers in the institutes, prosecutors said.

The incident first came to light in 2010 and in May 2018 the defendants were convicted on hundreds of offences of fraudulently receiving goods under aggravated circumstances, forging documents and identity papers, and money laundering. Two of the defendants were also convicted of obstructing the course of justice and harassing witnesses.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

Yeshiva Deprives Students of Secular Education and Mayor De Blasio Offers Praise

De Blasio Praised Brooklyn Yeshiva Accused Of Depriving Students Of Secular Education

From: The Gothamist

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Oholei Torah in Crown Heights. Mayor de Blasio praised the yeshiva, which is under DOE investigation, in a letter this spring. (Emma Whitford / Gothamist)

In May of this year, long after the Department of Education announced an investigation into dozens of yeshivas for failing to provide a basic education to their students, Mayor Bill de Blasio effusively praised one of the yeshivas that was being investigated.

In a letter obtained by Gothamist, de Blasio congratulated Crown Heights yeshiva Oholei Torah for “giving its students the tools they need to build solid foundations for their futures,” even as alumni accuse the ultra-Orthodox school of leaving them unprepared for college and a career.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has yet to issue any findings related to their investigation of educational neglect at 39 yeshivas in New York, and has allegedly blown through several promised deadlines since the probe was opened over two years ago.

At a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday, secular education advocates criticized de Blasio’s support for the school, and accused the mayor and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña of dragging their feet on the investigation for fear of offending the powerful Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox voting blocs.

“The politics behind this is obvious—the city is absolutely terrified of calling out the Hasidic yeshivas, because the findings would indicate that they’re not even close to meeting state requirements [concerning education],” Naftuli Moster, the executive director of Young Adults For A Fair Education [Yaffed], which acquired the mayor’s letter, told Gothamist.

The letter was included in a commemorative “journal” distributed to guests at the yeshiva’s 60th anniversary dinner this year, according to the group. It will be included in a forthcoming Yaffed report, which alleges that Oholei Torah provides no secular education to its students, in grades kindergarten through twelve.

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“It feels like the mayor just is not even pretending to care,” said Chaim Levin, 28, who attended Oholei Torah in Crown Heights from 1995 to 2005. “It’s like, he’s rewarding very bad behavior. Bad behavior that’s been going on for 60 years of this school’s existence.”

Oholei Torah did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the mayor’s letter, or Yaffed’s allegations. The Mayor’s Office declined to comment on the letter.

In July of 2015, around 50 yeshiva parents, alumni and former teachers sent a letter to the DOE expressing their concern that the Orthodox schools were almost entirely focused on intensive religious studies, to the exclusion of math, English, science and social studies.

According to a report put out earlier this month by Yaffed, the lack of instruction in secular education leaves “young men lack[ing] the requisite skills to obtain employment with a decent income to support themselves and their (often large) families.” The report recommends that the DOE establish a task force to improve education in the schools, and that all funding be cut to schools not meeting state benchmarks by summer 2019.

In response Yaffed’s report, the pro-yeshiva group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools [PEARLS] released a statement noting that the purpose of the ultra-Orthodox schools was for “children to receive a religious education that is central to their cultural identity, and that teaches young men and women to become thriving, respected members of the community.” The group rejected Yaffed’s recommendations.

“The vast majority of Hasidic boys’ high schools do not teach any secular studies, zero, not even English,” Moster said in response.

Such practices would place yeshivas in violation of a state law requiring all private schools to provide education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools. While the city has promised a good faith investigation into the potential neglect, Moster says they’ve missed at least two deadlines that they set for themselves.

Toya Holness, a spokesperson for the DOE, told Gothamist, “The investigation is ongoing and we are treating this matter with utmost seriousness.” She also provided Gothamist with a letter showing that the DOE had made scheduled visits to six yeshivas through the city, and planned to make additional visits throughout the month. She declined to answer a question about whether the department had a deadline for releasing their findings.

According to Moster, the DOE promised to release a report about the schools last summer, then pushed that back until this summer, and now appears to have backed off their commitment to a deadline entirely,

“If the only issue was waiting until after the elections, I would say fine,” he noted. “The problem is what this delay symbolizes: the city will bend itself backwards to appease a handful of powerful Hasidic leaders. If the report does ever come out, I’m expecting them to water it down dramatically.”

Lakewood School District Hijacked by the Ultra-Orthodox – The Kids Are Fighting Back!!

DO YOU WONDER WHY ANTI-SEMITISM EXISTS IN THE WORLD? THE CHILD VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM.

http://www.thelakewoodscoop.com/news/2017/05/breaking-photo-lakewood-high-school-students-take-to-the-streets-in-protest-over-teacher-job-cuts.html

BREAKING VIDEO & PHOTOS: Lakewood High School students take to the streets in protest over teacher job cuts

Rabbi Menachem Chinn, Charged With Sexual Assault of a Child

 

Betsy DeVos and Agudath Israel – The Irony of a One Woman Show and the Fall of Education

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Mar 8

A truly historic meeting today at U.S. Dept of Education with the Secretary and Agudath Israel representatives.

DeVos praises Orthodox Jewish group that strongly backs public funding for religious schools

https://www.washingtonpost.com

DeVos met with leaders of Agudath Israel of America, which is based in New York and has active branches in more than 25 states, including Texas, Florida, California, Maryland and New Jersey. Its leaders have successfully lobbied for using public taxpayer dollars to subsidize religious schools in several states.

In a statement released Wednesday, March 8, 2017, about the meeting at the Education Department with Agudath Israel leaders, DeVos said:

I applaud Agudath Israel for their leadership and commitment to providing their community with access to educational options that meet the academic and religious needs of their families. Agudath is a terrific partner and advocate for their families, and I welcomed today’s discussion.

I look forward to continuing to work with Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Jewish community and all who believe that every child, regardless of where they live or their family’s income, should have an equal opportunity to a quality education.

DeVos and President Trump have made clear that expanding school choice is an education policy priority.  The administration is believed to be considering a new federal school-choice program, likely a tax credit scholarship program that would offer individuals and corporations incentives to donate money to help families pay for tuition and other educational needs at private and religious schools. There is now is one federally funded voucher program, in Washington D.C., expected to be expanded by the Trump administration.

Trump has said he wants to spend $20 billion to promote school choice, while DeVos has spent decades advocating for charter schools and voucher/tax credit programs. A billionaire from Michigan, DeVos and her family have spent millions of dollars to support religious schools. In 2015, she said in a speech that traditional public education is “a dead end,” and her critics say that she wants to privatize public education, a departure from any previous U.S. administration.

Last week, Trump and DeVos made their first official joint trip to a school — a Catholic school in Florida. It was the first official school trip for Trump, and the first time a U.S. president had visited a Catholic school since Ronald Reagan visited St. Agatha Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Detroit on Oct. 10, 1984, years after he was elected.

In New York, Agudath Israel has been instrumental in winning state funds for Jewish schools, and has praised Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, for ensuring that millions of dollars in state funds would be spent for security and other services for these schools. On March 5, Cuomo announced a new “New York-Israel Commission” to strengthen economic and cultural ties between New York and Israel, and among the members is Sol Werdiger, chairman of Agudath Israel.

Although Agudath Israel of America does not ordinarily advocate for Cabinet members, it urged its supporters to lobby the Senate to confirm DeVos, with whom it has worked for years on school-choice issues. When she was nominated as education secretary by then-president-elect Trump, the group put a story on its website saying in part:

Shlomo Werdiger, chairman of Agudath Israel’s board of trustees, expressed his enthusiastic support for Mrs. DeVos’s nomination. “I have had some excellent discussions with Betsy DeVos,” Mr. Werdiger said. “She is intelligent, compassionate and effective. President-elect Trump has chosen wisely.”

The organization supported the Hasidic Jews who took control of the school board in East Ramapo, N.Y., more than a decade ago and were accused by state officials of financial mismanagement that harmed the public schools in the district but helped the private Jewish schools. In 2015, Agudath Israel lobbied against a bill in the state legislature that sought to appoint an overseer for the school board, and despite support for the bill from Cuomo and the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, it didn’t pass in the state Senate. In 2016, a compromise bill passed that provided more state money for public schools but did not include a state-appointed board monitor.

The Education Department issued a release Wednesday about the meeting between DeVos and Agudath leaders. Here’s the complete text:

This morning, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos met with leaders of Agudath Israel of America about her commitment to supporting all educational opportunities, the importance of IDEA and higher education.

Agudath leaders thanked the Secretary for her leadership and expressed their desire to work closely with her to ensure their schools and community members have access to quality educational opportunities that respect their religion.

After the meeting, Secretary DeVos issued the following statement:

“I applaud Agudath Israel for their leadership and commitment to providing their community with access to educational options that meet the academic and religious needs of their families. Agudath is a terrific partner and advocate for their families, and I welcomed today’s discussion.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Jewish community and all who believe that every child, regardless of where they live or their family’s income, should have an equal opportunity to a quality education.”

Attendees included:

Sol Werdiger, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President

Rabbi Abba Cohen, Vice President for Federal Affairs, Washington Director and Counsel

Rabbi A. D. Motzen, National Director of State Relations

And other members of Agudath Israel of America

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has made school “choice” a policy priority, met on Wednesday with leaders of an Orthodox Jewish group that has been instrumental in pushing voucher programs across the country. She praised their “leadership and commitment” in helping communities secure schools that “meet the academic and religious needs of their families” and said she looks forward to working with them.