Substantial Equivalency in New York for Yeshiva Students – Naftuli Moster YAFFED [podcast]

CAPITOL PRESSROOM

June 4, 2019: Non-public school guidelines

The fight for substantial equivalency for non-public schools made its way to the Board of Regents meeting in Albany this week. Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Young Advocates for Fair Education, discussed what he hopes to see the State do next to ensure substantial equivalency.

Yeshiva Education and Substantial Equivalency – Why not Meet Requirements or Forego Funding?

State education chief unveils retooled ‘substantial equivalency’ rules for private schools

Nancy Cutler, Rockland/Westchester Journal NewsPublished 3:33 p.m. ET May 31, 2019

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks with The Journal News Staff in White Plains March 18, 2019. Carucha L. Meuse, cmeuse@lohud.com

The New York State Education Department announced proposed regulations Friday for academic instruction at nonpublic schools, less than two months after its guidelines with similar goals were blocked by the State Supreme Court.

The issue focuses on enforcing state law requiring that secular studies at private schools — like math science, English and history — be “substantially equivalent” to what’s taught in public schools. Concern has been most focused on certain ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish yeshivas that advocates have reported fail to meet the law or prepare their students for employment and a solid economic future.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia initially issued new guidelines in November that were meant to update previously issued regulations for enforcing the law. But the court ruled in April that the Education Department failed to follow its own procedure for such specific changes.

The Education Department is classifying the effort as a change to regulations, not just guidelines. The path to new regulations includes a public comment period — lacking in the original process.

“Nonpublic schools are an important part of the educational landscape in New York State,” Elia said in a statement. “With the regulations, we will ensure that all students — no matter which school they attend — have the benefit of receiving the education state law says they must have. By following the State Administrative Procedure Act process, we are addressing the Court’s concerns.”

Some advocates had been pushing the state to adopt emergency regulations to enforce the “substantial equivalency” law, rather than launching a lengthier process. Naftuli Moster, the founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED, said in a statement that the state was playing into the hands of groups that resist oversight of yeshivas.

“Instead of acting quickly to implement emergency regulations, NYSED has chosen a lengthy process which all but guarantees that in the 2019-2020 school year, tens of thousands of children will continue to be denied the education to which they are entitled by law,” the New City resident said.

Yeshiva education activist Naftuli Moster, who has been the topic of a lot of criticism and praise for his work with YAFFED, a nonprofit that’s pushing the state to ensure secular education is provided in yeshivas, discussed his work outside Rockland County Court House June 12, 2018 in New City. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Also at issue is the state’s plan to allow inspections by the public school district to take place by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. “That’s like saying ‘when you get around to it, but no rush,’ ” YAFFED responded.

The education equivalency issue mostly impacts New York City and the East Ramapo school district, which has scores of yeshivas in their boundaries.

Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley, has been a strong critic of such oversight. Wieder, who is Hasidic, represents parts of Spring Valley. He has asserted that Elia “has bought into the narrative that is being peddled by people who have left the Orthodox community and only have hatred towards our community.”

The issue has caused much attention in New York politics. In 2018, the state budget was nearly derailed when Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, demanded language be inserted into the budget that would influence the way the state considered curriculum at certain yeshivas.

The proposed regulations more specifically spell out the ability for a private school to challenge the enforcement process in an effort to include “due process.” The guidelines also allow “for integrated curriculum that delivers content by incorporating more than one subject into the content of a course.”

The proposed regulations drop references to state learning standards; rather, the guidance language will focus on instruction in subject areas required by law.

To continue reading click here.

Yeshivas and No Secular Studies, the Tragedy for Jews and Democracy

The Forward - News that Matters to American Jews

Originally published in The Forward.

Susan Lerner and Esther Fuchs

May 29, 2019

Yeshivas Aren’t Teaching Secular Studies. It’s A Shonda For The Jews And Democracy.

Over generations, no matter their religious practice, Jews have shared a commitment to educating their children. In New York, the government has set the standards for that education and taken the legal responsibility to ensure that every child in every school, whether public, private or religious, receives an education that meets those standards. And yet, we find ourselves in an extraordinary situation, where rabbis in some of our most vulnerable communities have chosen to deny children the secular education they are entitled to and relegate them to a life of poverty and dependency. It is even more disheartening that our elected officials have chosen to be complicit in this disgrace.

For decades, yeshivas have received millions — if not hundreds of millions — of tax dollars from New York State lawmakers for transportation, security, lunch, textbooks, and even academic intervention services. Some yeshivas cover as much as two-thirds of their budget with public funds

Yet, we have little to no accountability for that money, even as certain Ultra-Orthodox leaders openly flout state law which requires all nonpublic schools to provide an education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to public schools. That’s because lawmakers have historically prioritized politically powerful voting blocks ahead of student wellbeing, and they’re doing it on our dime.

The fact is we have no idea if these schools are even in compliance with state educational requirements to teach secular studies, but we have reason to suspect that they’re not. According to a report commissioned by Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) in 2017, Hasidic boys receive only 90 minute or less of secular instruction a day in elementary school, and none in high school. This leaves them unable to read and write in English, perform basic math, or understand the science behind vaccines.

It’s an ongoing crisis, but despite recent efforts by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to implement very basic oversight, these Ultra-Orthodox leaders are fighting to keep our children in the dark ages. Pilpul and gematria are simply not a substitute for writing a clear English sentence and understanding basic math concepts.

 

To continue reading the article in the Forward click here.

Religion v. Education and the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

Battle Over Role of Religion in Schools Plays Out in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

 

Ultra-orthodox Jews in BrooklynUltra-orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, September 14, 2007. (Photo: diluvi, Flickr)

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of Citizen Truth.)

“Some people leave precisely because they have been deprived of an education, and they feel betrayed.”

As public school education has become increasingly secular over the years, private religious schools have pushed back by focusing their curricula on more intense religious studies, often at the expense of instruction in secular subjects.

While the role of religion in schools has been a controversial topic since the early days of the American education system, the divide over the role of religion in education seems to be widening. One of the most obvious examples of the conflict can be seen in the educational institutions of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where instruction in secular subjects is almost non-existent.

Schools that Don’t Educate

According to activists Citizen Truth spoke with, students at some of these ultra-orthodox educational institutions don’t even know that dinosaurs once walked the earth, or that one of the bloodiest wars in human history occurred as a result of the battle over slavery.

This knowledge is essential to be a rational, reasonable member of modern American society, which is what education in the United States is supposed to prepare its youth for. By denying these aspects of education to their students, ultra-Orthodox schools and other conservative religious institutions are not only doing these children a disservice; they are declaring war on modernity and reason.

Ultra-orthodox Jews are also known as Haredi, which can also be translated from Hebrew as “anxious.” This extremely conservative sect of Judaism is characterized by its anxiety towards the outside, non-Jewish world: fear of assimilation, doubt regarding scientific principles and complete trust in the religious leader of one’s specific community, known as a rebbe.

Throughout this article, the words ultra-orthodox and Haredi will be used interchangeably. However, remember that the majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the United States belong to Hasidic sects, which is an even more conservative group of communities within the larger Haredi community. All Hasidic Jews are part of the larger Haredi movement, but not all Haredi Jews belong to Hasidic communities.

Advocating for Fair Education

One of the groups leading the fight in support of better educational practices in Haredi religious institutions is Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), whose executive director is Naftuli Moster.

Moster was educated in an all-male Haredi school or yeshiva in Borough Park, Brooklyn, which is one of the epicenters of ultra-orthodox culture in the city. He decided to start YAFFED after realizing how incomplete the education he and his friends had received at yeshivas and other ultra-orthodox schools actually was.

Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY. Photo: [mementosis} via Flickr.

Moster is quick to point out that “receiving a Judaic education has its benefits. It’s not like lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing. But it’s no substitute for a secular education that includes English, math, science, and social studies.” Religious instruction may have its benefits, but only if it is properly integrated into a curriculum that also includes subjects like science, math and history.

YAFFED, PEARLS and a Battle Over Education

YAFFED recently released a 90-page report entitled Non-Equivalent: The State of Education in New York City’s Hasidic Yeshivas which gave a detailed account of the amount of time spent on secular studies in ultra-Orthodox schools. The report also provided comprehensive data on the government funding that yeshivas receive and included recommendations from the New York City Department of Education and the New York Department of Education.

YAFFED and other concerned groups have made repeated attempts to remedy the massive problems existing in religious educational institutions in New York. But the attempts at legislation by the New York State Education at YAFFED’s behest have been met with strong legal and political opposition, and as a result, have failed.

At the forefront of the opposition to YAFFED and similar groups is a group called Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, or PEARLS. Though the name makes allusions to freedom in education, it’s essentially a pro-Yeshiva organization created to oppose YAFFED and stop any government initiatives to improve education in ultra-Orthodox schools. To date, they have spent nearly one million dollars in their effort to prevent students at Hasidic schools from having access to secular knowledge.

PEARLS has friends in high places. The public relations firm who represents the group is Global Strategy Group, one of the most sought-after public relations firms in politics. They have assisted many prominent American politicians, including former New York governor Elliot Spitzer and current governor Andrew Cuomo. One of the leaders of PEARLS, Rabbi Isaac Sofer, is also a former fundraiser for current New York mayor Bill de Blasio. Given that Cuomo and de Blasio are some of the most prominent politicians charged with regulating the educational practices at Haredi institutions, this cozy relationship should be at least somewhat troubling.

Ultra-Orthodox Community’s Political Clout

Yeshivas are male-only education institutions, and since the intended goal of a yeshiva education is to become a rabbi, these schools offer less secular instruction than their female-only counterparts. As a result, girls educated at ultra-Orthodox schools tend to have an easier time as they transition to adulthood and attend college or join the workforce.

Moster also points out that these girls are no less Jewish or Orthodox than their male peers. He explained to Citizen Truth that “this goes to show that you can provide a full Judaic and secular education without compromising one or the other.”

 

To continue reading click here.

Rockland County, New York, Code and Housing Violations – Dangerous Conditions – Yeshivas and Children[video]

blob:https://www.nbcnewyork.com/0d293faa-cef4-446c-af87-dd3e0d6bafd2

 

I-Team: Battle Brewing Over Illegal and Dangerous Building Conversions in Rockland County

An investigation paralleling I-Team coverage found slumlords with illegal subdivisions and “rooming houses” are repeatedly failing local building codes and laws

 

A new battle is brewing in Rockland County amid accusations of overdevelopment and illegal conversions.

Months ago, State Senator James Skoufis, who represents part of Rockland, launched an investigation into building code enforcement. His investigation parallels continuing coverage by the I-Team.

“We’re finding illegal subdivisions where walls appear where they should not be. We’re finding illegal rooming houses where slumlords are renting to vulnerable Spanish-speaking immigrants,” Skoufis said.

The I-Team submitted Freedom of Information requests for nearly two dozen properties in the town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley. The locations were identified by members of the county’s illegal housing task force and building insiders as being persistent offenders for failing to follow local building laws and codes.

Exploding Controversy Over NY County Illegal Housing Battle

[NY] Exploding Controversy Over NY County Illegal Housing Battle

There is a new battle over illegal housing in Rockland County and the mounting pressure by a special task force and hearings ordered by a state senator. The I-Team’s Sarah Wallace.

(Published Wednesday, May 8, 2019)

Many of the files in Spring Valley were incomplete or missing, according to Gordon Wren, the retired Director of Fire and Emergency Services, and a former Ramapo building inspector.

“Slumlords are doing whatever they want. It’s out of control,” Wren said. He added, “Firefighting is dangerous under any conditions. Then when you have these illegal conversions, it’s extremely dangerous.”

“It’s the wild west, and getting wilder,” said Justin Schwartz, chairman of the task force. “The bad guys are doing whatever they want with impunity.”

The I-Team obtained recent photos taken by a fire inspector at a private home in Monsey. The inspector noted an “obviously illegal yeshiva dormitory operating in basement with up to 6 beds per 4 overcrowded rooms, insufficient or blocked rescue and escape openings, missing smoke alarms, no CO alarms, and open/dangerous electric.”

The owner refused to comment on the photos the I-Team wanted to show her. A town spokesman said the violations have been cleared.

Critics say that property illustrates a systemic pattern of failure to enforce building code laws.

The Professor Adina Schick Affidavit and Yeshiva Education – Misleading Interpretation – Part I

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Misleading and Uninformed – Further Keeping Children Hostage – The Affidavit of Professor Adina Schick and What it Fails to Understand

We are posting the following letter and the Professor Adina Schick affidavit. Professor Shick is worthy or praise in her own right for the work she has done and all that she has accomplished. This is not intended to be a personal attack and should not be viewed as such. We have not researched Professor Schick’s upbringing, her background or anything else about her to see if she was a Yeshiva student, or if she is affiliated with an ultra-Orthodox community. 

As a general matter, her affidavit raises Common Core standards which in our view is problematic to begin with because there are few public schools in the State of New York that are keen on continuing the Common Core standards. Common Core was a faulty premise to begin with and a number of states have already done away with them. 

Her affidavit appears to disregard the fact that if students are given public funding for education they should be required to meet public requirements. It was clearly not an affidavit intended for that purpose. It was intended to ask a limited question: “Can children taught in Yeshiva be meeting the same standards as public school children?” Her response, in our view, is wholly misleading. 

Professor Schick fails to mention that the Talmud is written in Aramaic. Much of the studying in Yiddish (not English) may be a linguistic accomplishment for the children learning to understand these two languages but does nothing for children who need to function in country where English is the language of daily living. The children are not taught to understand science, mathematics, physics or anything about their physical realm except through the Aramaic words in the Talmud and while one might be able to extend some sort of imaginary parallel between the two, the focus within the Yeshiva context does not draw that parallel. 

We receive the following from a concerned reader and thought we should post: 

Dear Lost Messiah:

“This affidavit is extremely problematic and misleading. The fact remains, the Talmud is written in Aramaic. The language of instruction in the 39 chasidic yeshivas affected by the new guidelines is in yiddish. There is simply no way the Next Generation English Language Standards can be met through the study of Talmud in yiddish.”

 

Page 6:

14. In the middle school years, for example, Next Generation English Language Standards such as Literacy and Informational Text Reading Standards (e.g., Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure; Integration of Knowledge and Ideas); Speaking and Listening Standards (e.g., Comprehension and Collaboration; Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas); Language Standards (e.g., Vocabulary Acquisition and Use), as well as Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies and Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects can be met. 

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