Yeshiva Children, Subpar Education? Perhaps in NY There Will be an Answer

Nuftali Moster founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, the group that sued the city’s Department of Education in a push for more secular instruction in yeshivas. Credit: Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out

In parts of New York City, there are students who can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred.

Some of them are in their last year of high school.

That is the claim made by a group of graduates from ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools called yeshivas, and they say that startling situation has been commonplace for decades.

Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas that serve about 57,000 students in the city, but the probe essentially stalled almost as soon as it began. The reason, advocates say, is the city’s politicians, including the mayor, are fearful of angering the Orthodox Jewish community that represents a crucial voting bloc in major elections.

Then the state stepped in with the most significant action yet in the probe. MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, released updated ruleson Nov. 20 dictating how nonpublic schools like yeshivas are regulated and what students in those schools should learn, with consequences for schools that do not comply.

The guidance could force yeshivas to change how they operate and what they teach. It will also hold Mr. de Blasio’s feet to the fire, as his administration is forced to ramp up its investigation into the schools.

“There’s no time to waste,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, which pushes for more secular instruction in yeshivas. “New York City has already been dragging its feet for three years.”

The city’s yeshiva probe began in 2015, after Mr. Moster’s group filed a complaint claiming that scores of students — boys, in particular — graduate from ultra-Orthodox yeshivas unprepared for work or higher education, with little exposure to nonreligious classes like science and history. Instead, some yeshiva graduates say, students spend most school days studying Jewish texts. Younger boys sometimes attend about 90 minutes of nonreligious classes at the end of the day, a city report found.

A coalition of prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and community members have accused critics of yeshivas of attacking religious freedoms.

“This is a smear campaign against our community and what it stands for,” said David Niederman, a rabbi and the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. “If some people are not happy with what they are taught, it is up to them to take action.”

Avi Schick, a lawyer for Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, a group formed after the 2015 investigation was opened, said, “The intrusive set of requirements imposed by the state demolishes the wall between church and state that politicians have hid behind for decades.”

This past summer, the organization, known as Pearls, handed out 10,000 posters and bumper stickers emblazoned with the hashtag #ProtectYeshivas to parents of children in Orthodox Jewish schools.

The state’s guidance places the burden of investigating the schools on Mr. de Blasio’s administration.

City officials are now required to visit all nonpublic schools by the end of 2021 — which will coincide with the end of Mr. de Blasio’s second term — and visit each school every five years after that. If officials find that the schools are not providing an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what public schools offer, the city can give schools more time and resources to add secular teaching. If that does not work, the city can withhold some funding it provides private schools.

In an interview, the city schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, said that he had requested training for Department of Education employees who will visit the schools, and that he would prioritize visits to a half-dozen yeshivas he claimed have barred city officials from entry. After that, he plans to send staffers to several dozen other yeshivas that were listed on the 2015 complaint as having insufficient secular education.

This is going to be a robust kind of a visit, and a robust looking into all the nonpublic schools,” Mr. Carranza said. “The mayor has made it really clear from Day 1 for me that he wants us to move aggressively and get this taken care of.”

Though complaints about academics have focused on New York City’s yeshivas, the guidance applies to all nonpublic schools in the state, which has raised alarm bells for other groups.

“We remain gravely concerned over the process, which will likely lend itself to an inconsistent and subjective review of many schools,” Jim Cultrara, the director for education at the New York State Catholic Conference, said in an interview.

The mayor’s handling of the yeshiva investigation will now be monitored not only by the state, but also by those concerned about Mr. de Blasio’s recent dismissal of Mark G. Peters, the former Department of Investigations chief.

After he was fired, Mr. Peters confirmed that his department was looking into whether City Hall interfered with the city Education Department’s inquiry into yeshivas in an effort to maintain ties with the Orthodox community. The issue has since been elevated, and there is a question of whether the mayor sought to tamp down probes into his own administration.

Mr. de Blasio’s pick to replace Mr. Peters, Margaret M. Garnett, was already quizzed at a recent City Council hearing about whether she will continue the probe into City Hall’s handling of the yeshiva investigation. She said in an interview with The Times that she would not “tolerate or accept interference” in any queries involving the mayor.

Advocates for more secular education in yeshivas found reason to celebrate last month, when Democrats seized a commanding majority in the New York State Senate.

The Senate flip robbed Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, of an enviable swing vote that he used last year to add protections for yeshivas in the 11th hour of state budget negotiations. Young Advocates for Fair Education, Mr. Moster’s group, has sued the state over the so-called Felder amendment, calling it unconstitutional.

Mr. Felder, who represents Orthodox enclaves of Brooklyn, declined to comment.

Still, enormous obstacles remain for those who want the city to shine a spotlight on yeshivas.

Few if any politicians in Albany or downstate are willing to anger the Orthodox political establishment. Urgent problems in the city’s 1,800 public schools — including ballooning student homelessness and entrenched racial segregation — will take precedence over issues in religious schools that the city does not run.

To read the remainder of the article with the New York Times click here.

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Fighting YAFFED – PEARS – A Concerted Effort to Keep Yeshiva Children Hostages Within their Own Community

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The New York Education Disgrace – The Ultra-Orthodox Children, State Sponsored Indoctrination and What If?

LostMessiah, 16 October 2018

If a Spanish speaking community wanted to set up its own schools where everything was taught in Spanish, no English (or minimal English) and where the children were not taught Evolution, Mathematics or subjects demonstrably able to give them a chance going forward, we would be horrified. If they demanded government funding (for computers and busing), it would be unequivocally denied. In fact, the more racist among us would be claiming that they are raising future drug-runners.

If a Muslim community want to live by Shaaria law (as opposed to a Va’ad or Beit Din (Rabbinical Court)), wanted to have their children taught in mosques and wanted to teach in Arabic only, we would have no part of it. The State would not even entertain the proposition. Not only would we probably be shutting the entire endeavor down, no matter how innocuous it all would likely be, we would be undoubtedly claiming that they are raising future terrorists, members of ISIS, suicide bombers; and they would likely be on every government watch list available.

If the Korean communities that teach their children mostly in Korean, teach versions of Christianity mixed with a heavy weight of teaching their children English, Science, Math, Music and other well-rounded subjects, wanted to stop teaching English and wanted to raise their children only speaking Korean and living by a different set of rules, we would not allow their schools to remain open and certainly not assisted with government funding.

And yet, here we are accepting (if not advocating for it PEARLS) a substandard education where children may be taught to reason using the Socratic Method of understanding Mishnah and Gemorrah (Jewish Texts) (maybe), but are not taught to work out a mathematics problem beyond grade 7. Here we are accepting the premise that because children are taught basic math through the numerological understanding of the Torah and its meanings, that it is enough. Here we are accepting, even entertaining a misleading claim that somehow 15 hours per day of religious education is enough to survive in a world (where others like secular Jews, non-Jews and others are supporting them). Somehow, we are accepting this Yeshiva double-standard? WHY?

If you don’t teach science, how will your 15 children be born? Who will treat an ear infection? What if the rest of us stopped accepting your business?

The children attending these ultra-Orthodox, insular and radicalized schools are taught to understand Jewish texts, a bastardized version of Yiddish spoken within their communities, and basic skills. They are given lessons in sexual education when they are old enough to procreate and not before. In nearly all cases they are not taught to assimilate. To the contrary, even a Jew not raised in that community is not “really a Jew.” In many cases they are taught the ways of the elders (namely how to survive by bilking the system (think Medicare and Medicaid). In some cases, they are exposed to sexual abuse and taught that to report is a “Moser” and therefore a sin. The children are wholly and completely indoctrinated.

And, may the truth be told if tomorrow the rabbis started to teach these children the lessons of radical Islam which Martyrs people willing to die for a cause, or any other radical belief system that many of us find so abhorrent, these children would listen. Why? Because they know nothing else. If the ultra-Orthodox community woke one day and wanted to weaponize their children, there would be nothing to stop them from doing so. In fact, in Israel there are communities where this is already happening. Children are being taught by Rabbinic leaders to throw stones, attack people who don’t keep the Sabbath, create chaos. Is this so far-fetched that it could happen stateside? And when do the lines get crossed from throwing stones to throwing bombs? What if? 

 

FIGHTING MOSTER: PEARLS Brief Defends Parents’ Rights To Choose Yeshiva Education

arents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), an organization defending parents’ right to choose a yeshiva education for their children, has filed an amicus curiae brief defending yeshiva education from the misguided and inflammatory claims contained in a lawsuit filed by an organization named YAFFED. The brief, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, was co-signed by Agudath Israel of America, Torah Umesorah and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

In its lawsuit, YAFFED challenges the constitutionality of a change in the New York education law – enacted in April, and widely known as the Felder Amendment – and uses that challenge as a launching pad for its all-out attack on the yeshiva system. YAFFED seeks to have the court supplant the Legislature, the State Education Department and the NYC Department of Education in setting education policy, and asks the court to direct SED and DOE to ignore the rich educational values students derive from their yeshiva education.

[RELATED – MOSTER CONTINUES HIS ATTACKS: YAFFED Sues NY State Over Hasidic Yeshiva Education; PEARLS Responds]

According to the PEARLS brief, “YAFFED cloaks its disappointment with the Legislature that enacted the Felder Amendment in constitutional garb”. However, the PEARLS brief points out that there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits consideration of the academic rigor and educational value of limudei kodesh, referred to in the Felder amendment as “the entirety of the curriculum.” Affidavits accompanying the brief, cite examples, predating the new law, where agencies looked at the multi-faceted yeshiva educational program when evaluating if it meets the bar of “substantial equivalency” to public school education.

The amicus brief also notes that the United States Supreme Court has time and again found that parents have a fundamental right to direct the educational paths of their children. That is not only a religious right, but also a fundamental parental right.

“While parents choose yeshiva education to fulfill a religious mission,” the brief says, “their ability to do so vindicates an important secular right – the fundamental right that has been repeatedly invoked by the United States Supreme Court to strike down state attempts to limit parental freedom to direct how their children are educated.”

The amicus brief counters YAFFED’s repeated claim that children who attend yeshiva do not receive critical tools and skill sets needed for long-term personal growth, and notes that “it has apparently not occurred to those who have established YAFFED that Chasidic parents utilize a different barometer than theirs for measuring a meaningful and successful life.”

PLEASE CONTINUE READING HERE.

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

https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/05/08/rockland-legislator-should-censured-using-social-media-harass-critic-writes/587996002/

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

@AronWieder

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.

YAFFED and Illiteracy in English in America

Opinion 

What It’s Really Like to Be ultra-Orthodox in America – and Illiterate in English

I stood aghast at the epic travesty: My own adult brother – an American citizen born to American citizens, raised inside its borders, a dad raising children of his own – could barely read a sentence in the language of his land

A voter casting a ballot in Kiryas Joel, New York, November 2, 2010.
A voter casting a ballot in Kiryas Joel, New York, November 2, 2010.Mark Lennihan / AP

To read the article in his entirety click here.

YAFFED.Org – Speaks out against Kalman and Yeger

This was submitted to us by a frequent reader and we tip our hats to that reader.

We note that we are posting this without the prior knowledge of Yaffed’s Naftuli Moster.

This post should not be deemed to imply that we have the support of either Yaffed or Mr. Moster, nor should it be assumed that they are readers of our posts.

Please see the video.