Yaffed Sues State, Cuomo Promises to Leave Education Untouched and Tish James Joins Cuomo Ticket- Education in NY?

Group sues state over yeshivas

GROUP SUES STATE FOR GREATER YESHIVA OVERSIGHT — POLITICO’s Madina TouréAn organization seeking to reform curricula in yeshivas is suing the state over legislation that, in the group’s view, protects the schools from proper oversight. The organization — Young Advocates for Fair Education, also known as Yaffed — filed the suit on Monday morning in Brooklyn federal court. It named Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa as defendants. Lawyers from the firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan are representing Yaffed pro bono.

“Ultra-orthodox yeshivas, by our estimates, receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year,” said Naftuli Moster, Yaffed’s founder and executive director, at a press conference in Manhattan announcing the lawsuit.”This is clearly a problem and a problem that elected officials in New York have known about for decades and instead of improving the situation, the state allowed one lawmaker, Simcha Felder, who represents the interests of yeshiva leaders, to hijack the state budget process to ensure inclusion of an amendment that exempts ultra-Orthodox yeshivas statewide from having to provide a proper secular education,” Moster continued.

Felder, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn who has been caucusing with Senate Republicans since he was elected in 2012, was accused of holding up the $168 billion state budget earlier this year until the state acquiesced to his request for yeshivas to be exempt from curriculum requirements. He provides the Senate GOP with a key 32nd vote. The final budget gave the state Education Department the authority to address the issue for bilingual teaching for a greater number of hours, a requirement that yeshivas fulfill.

The group contends that the state’s action flouts the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bans the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion” or “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“The carve-out in the Felder Amendment is actually defined in a way that only those ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are included within that carve-out,” said Eric Huang, lead counsel for Yaffed. “These are defined by the fact that they’re nonprofits, that they have a bilingual program and that their education program is marked by very long days.” Read more here.


Aron Wieder – A Twitter Offensive Against YAFFED


Rockland legislator uses social media to harass, restrict debate on yeshiva education

Newsflash: Twitter is a pesthole of trolls. Actually, that’s news to no one. Still, most of us expect better of our elected officials when they’re on the social-media platform.

Which is why Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder’s smear campaign, on Twitter, against a local activist, Naftuli Moster, should be deeply troubling to Rocklanders. Wieder represents District 13, which includes part of the ultra-Orthodox community (of which he is a member). Many readers will recall the savage budget cuts and sweeping layoffs during his controversial time on the East Ramapo Board of Education, a school board controlled by representatives of the Orthodox community, whose children attend private religious schools known as yeshivas. Moster, formerly a member of a Hasidic community, leads the organization YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), which seeks to improve the secular education of yeshiva students. Flouting state law, many Hasidic yeshivas focus on religious studies to the near-exclusion of secular subjects such as English, math, and science.

Legislator Wieder has been a vigorous defender of New York State Sen. Simcha Felder’s recent attempt to hollow out the law that ensures private-school students get the same well-rounded education that New York’s public-school students receive. Through his Twitter account, Moster has argued against Felder’s legislation.

Aron Wieder


Why is Nicholas Moster aka Yaffed against funding of secular education for cute Hasidic children?! Because he does not care about the education. Nicholas stop harassing the Hasidic community. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH @NYSEDNews

Rather than engage in a thoughtful debate on the issues, Wieder has attacked Moster personally. On Twitter, he has accused Moster of “deceiving lawmakers and policymakers that he is an observing [sic] religious Hasidic Jew” and underscores that point by using the anglicized version of his name (“Nicholas”) — a dog-whistle to the ultra-Orthodox, implying that no citizen who isn’t a member of that community is entitled to criticize the yeshiva system. As well, he retweeted photos of Moster and, even more alarming, a photo of a legal document with Moster’s cell phone number clearly legible, a widely reviled form of Internet harassment known as “doxxing.”

The Rockland County Board of Ethics should censure Legislator Wieder. His cyberbullying is not only a discredit to the body of which he is a member but a clear violation of the legislature’s own Social Media Guide, which states, in the section on “Social Media ‘Best Practices’ for Elected Officials,” that officials should strive, when posting on social media, to be “honest, straightforward, and respectful” (italics mine); that they should “add value to any social media discussion by staying focused on the issue” as opposed, presumably, to the character or beliefs of the individual (such as whether he is an observant Jew); and that they should not post “non-public or confidential information” such as private phone numbers.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

Education in New York, Substantially Similar? Likely… Not Happening Under Cuomo

PHOTOS: Gov. Cuomo Visits Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, Promises Not To Interfere With Yeshiva Education

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg at his home on Thursday night. Leaders of several community Mosdos attended the meeting.

According to a BeChadrei Chareidim report, the Governor reassured the Rebbe that he would not interfere in Yeshiva education. Orthodox Jewish Yeshivas in New York City have been under investigation in recent years over allegations from a group called YAFFED that the yeshivas provide an inadequate level of secular education.

To see the articles and photos click here.


An E-Rated Scam- The Pillage of Education in Rockland County, NY


Seven Hudson Valley residents have been charged in a “wide-ranging” multi-million dollar scheme to defraud a federal “E Rate” subsidy program involving school technology funding earmarked for underprivileged children.

Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of an indictment, which charges seven Monsey, Monroe and Spring Valley residents with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud charges.

Those charged include Monsey residents Simon Goldbrenner, 55, Ben Klein, 39, Sholem Steinberg, 39, and Aron Melber, 42. Monroe resident Moshe Schwartz, 45, and Spring Valley residents Peretz Klein, 64, and Susan Klein.

Scarpino said that the E‑rate distributes funds to schools and libraries mostly serving economically disadvantaged children, so that those institutions can afford needed telecommunication services, internet access, and related equipment. Over 30,000 applications from schools and libraries seeking funds to serve economically disadvantaged children were received each year during the relevant time period; every year, requests for E‑rate funds have exceeded funds available.

In order to obtain those funds, educational institutions certify that they are purchasing equipment and services from a private vendor; if approved, the program defrays the cost by up to 90 percent. The educational institution is supposed to enter into an open bidding process in order to select a vendor, and the educational institution and vendor submit a series of certifications that they comply with a number of requirements of the E‑rate program.

According to the indictment, Peretz Klein, Susan Klein, Ben Klein and Steinberg allegedly held themselves out as vendors to schools participating in the program. Corporations they controlled requested more than $35 million in E-rate funds, of which they received more than $14 million from 2010 to 2016.

Goldbrener and Schwartz allegedly held themselves out as consultants during the scheme, assisting schools that wanted to participate in the program. They filed documents that resulted in the millions of dollars in payouts. Melber, an official at a private religious school in Rockland, participated in the scheme with the other five, during which time his school received more than a million dollars in E-rate funds.

However, the schools never received any of the millions of dollars of equipment or services.

Continue reading

The Government Complicity in the Destruction of Education in NYS



From the Voice of YAFFED:

Naftuli Nick Moster For context, in order to get the New York State budget passed after Simcha Felder decided to hijack it unless he receives an exemption for Yeshivas to not have to meet state standards, Governor Cuomo arranged a phone call with the Satmar Rabbi of Kiryas Joel (the brother of this one). He needed a Yiddish translator because the Rebbe barely speaks English.

And that’s why we now have a special carve-out (of lower standards) for ultra-Orthodox schools.





Half of Yeshivas Under Investigation Denied Entry? YAFFED V. PEARLS…


Education in New York – And the Problem with New York’s Laws, New York’s Department of Education Investigations and Another Perspective…PEARLS

Dear Reader:

We have been asked by one of our readers why we did not post Avi Schick’s Op-Ed regarding education. Our response, to be blunt, is that we did not see it. By way of introduction, if Naftuli Moster is the Point, Avi Schick is the Counterpoint. If we agree with YAFFED’s position on education, we will likely disagree with that of the organization Avi Schicks supports.

That said, we would be remiss if we did not provide the other edge of the sword.

Avi Schick is a respected attorney and representative of “Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools.” Many of his positions are well articulated and may be a fair representation of views of the community for which he speaks. The comment regarding posting his position we really cannot ignore.

Therefore to be fair, we are posting here a few of the articles regarding PEARLS’ position on this matter, below.

Stop Smearing Yeshivas: They Provide Quality Education

In Sundays edition of the New York Daily News, Avi Schick, a lawyer and a former New York Deputy Attorney General who is representing the targeted yeshivas, points out a “false note” in the letter from the Department of Education alleging that they were denied access to some yeshivas, and goes on to clarify that those yeshivas do not receive government funding.

by Avi Shick

During my quarter-century practicing law, I have defended a broad range of clients and activities: the state’s anti-smoking laws from cigarette companies, the Working Families Party from an improperly appointed special prosecutor, and numerous insurers, banks, and developers.

None of my clients has been as misunderstood and negatively stereotyped as the Hasidic schools and community I now represent.

For the past three years, they have been forced to endure a relentless campaign against their schools and way of life. The onslaught was triggered by a letter complaining about the education at Brooklyn yeshivas by a group called Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) that was short on specifics but alleged that these schools did not teach in “English from English language textbooks,” and was followed by a public relations campaign meant to harden public opinion against an insular community with a unique culture.

Last week, the city’s Department of Education sent a letter to the state Education Department that was meant to summarize its findings.

Read fairly, the DOE letter confirms that the allegations against the yeshivas are false, and that yeshiva students receive an enriching education in a quality learning environment.

The letter also discussed a unified effort that created a “new, more rigorous secular studies curriculum” that has been widely adopted in Hasidic schools. This curriculum is embodied in textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin and Sadlier Oxford, and has been accompanied by professional development and teacher training to ensure effective implementation.

The DOE has already visited 15 of the 23 elementary schools listed in YAFFED’s complaint, educating more than 13,000 students, and observed serious teaching and learning in each of those schools. The remaining elementary schools, which enroll about 3,000 students, will be visited this fall.

There was one false note in the DOE letter, which was the suggestion that it was denied access to the remaining schools. As the lawyer for all the schools — those visited to date and those to be visited in the coming months — I can state unequivocally that access was not and will not be denied.

For years, news reports cited that YAFFED’s complaint listed 39 yeshivas; the DOE letter reveals that there are only 29. YAFFED alleged that its signatories were current or former parents, students or teachers at all the yeshivas they listed; the DOE letter reveals that they had information about only 11 of the schools. Several of the “schools” listed do not even exist.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

NYC: Orthodox Jewish school leaders promising improvements


New York City education officials saw encouraging signs at 15 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools that were subjects of a 2015 complaint, but they were not allowed access to another 15 schools, according to a letter from city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to the New York state Education Department.

The leaders of the schools that city educators visited “expressed a commitment to expanding students’ exposure to secular instruction and to improving the instruction itself,” the letter sent Wednesday said.

But city Department of Education officials “made repeated attempts to gain access” to another 15 schools that were listed in the complaint by a group that has campaigned for better secular instruction at ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, the letter said.

The two sides on the contentious issue of whether schools, or yeshivas, affiliated with strictly observant Hasidic Jewish sects are preparing students for the modern world drew different conclusions from the letter.

deBlasio, What About “Substantially Similar” Education?



NYC mayor denies he’s been soft on ultra-Orthodox schools

New York mayor Bill de Blasio pushed back against criticisms that he has been soft on ultra-Orthodox schools that have illegally declined to offer their students secular studies.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, de Blasio said that city officials had “engaged in a dialogue with a number of schools” that was “very productive.” Likely responding to recent harsh editorials in New York’s tabloid press, the mayor asserted that the media was looking for “instant gratification.”

The city launched a probe into its yeshiva system in 2015 following a complaint by the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) activist group. The group asserted that 39 Orthodox institutions were failing to meet standards set by state law requiring private schools to offer a curriculum “substantially equivalent” to that of the public system.

Last week, after three years of work, New York City schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza issued a report stating that 15 out of the 30 yeshivas under investigation did not allow inspectors to enter even though the Department of Education “has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools.”

In response, YAFFED founder Naftuli Moster told the New York Times that it was “disappointing, but not surprising.”

“Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to conclude there is both a lack of secular instruction going on in these schools and that these schools believe they are above the law,” said Moster.

In a scathing editorial late last month, the New York Post accused de Blasio of running a “phony probe.”

“Students leave the schools deprived of the basic skills they’ll need in a secular world,” read an editorial. “If City Hall truly wanted to make sure these kids are getting a proper education, it would’ve finished the probe long ago. Alas, Hizzoner’s more interested in pleasing the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox community, which resists scrutiny of its yeshivas and asserts its religious-freedom rights.”

The New York Daily News ran a similar editorial this month in which it it described the investigation as a “shonda” — Yiddish for scandal.

“There’s two sides to every story,” de Blasio told reporters. “We have 15 schools where we went in, a lot of work was done, clearly there was room for improvement but I have to be straightforward and say there’s room for improvement in a lot of traditional schools, too.”

To read the article in its entirety click here.