YAFFED Lawsuit Tossed but Not on Merits, on Standing

Lawsuit over amendment shielding some Jewish schools tossed

 

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed an advocacy group’s lawsuit over a New York state lawmaker’s attempt to shield ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools from oversight.

U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser ruled late Wednesday that the group Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED lacks standing to sue over the so-called Felder amendment.

The group sued Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state education officials in July 2018 over State Sen. Simcha Felder’s amendment that effectively moved oversight of the ultra-Orthodox schools from local school districts to the state.

Members of the group say some of the ultra-Orthodox schools, called yeshivas, provide little or no instruction in secular subjects including English, math, science and social studies. They say some young people leave the schools barely able to read or write in English despite a New York state law that mandates that private schools provide an education substantially equivalent to the public schools.

Under new guidelines on the substantial equivalency rule released by the state education department last November, all private schools including religious schools are supposed to be inspected by local public school authorities every five years.

Glasser implied in his ruling that the new state guidelines might render the group’s lawsuit moot. He said that under the new guidelines, the schools covered by the Felder amendment will be required to comply with “all of the same curriculum and hour requirements applicable to other private schools” and will face additional requirements related to the religious portion of the schools’ curriculum.

Naftuli Moster, the founder of the advocacy group, said he disagreed. “The revised guidelines embody the separate and preferential treatment of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, regardless of how the leaders of those schools feel about the guidelines,” Moster said in a statement. He said the group will press forward “in reforming the unjust system.”

The pro-yeshiva group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools said it applauded Glasser’s decision. “YAFFED’s campaign of harassment of the yeshivas must end,” the group said in a statement.

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The Torkian Group, Airbnb and Homeaway, Hurting the Housing Market in NY – Making Millions

New York City Sued Airbnb Operators For Allegedly Posing As Fake Hosts​

A $20.7 million lawsuit implicates a ring of real estate agents and companies posting multiple listings on sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.

Yeshiva Education and New Yorkers’ Money – Do you Know Where your Money is Going?

Schools that deprive children of basic skills get millions of taxpayer dollars

 

After years of focus on the major educational deficiencies within many ultra-orthodox or Hasidic schools in New York, the state Education Department in November issued updated guidelines that included clarification on “substantial equivalency” requirements for nonpublic schools.

As these guidelines apply to all private schools, it’s been met with a bit of an uproar. Several politicians have been swift to pander to Agudath Israel—an Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization—and yeshiva leaders by portraying this as an assault on yeshivas and calling on the state to back off.

Schools in the Orthodox Jewish community exist along a spectrum. The Modern Orthodox schools offer a well-rounded Jewish education as well as a robust secular education, by which I mean instruction in English, math, science, history, physical education, etc. Graduates of these Modern Orthodox schools do quite well academically and professionally, and their successes are now being touted as “proof” that the yeshiva system works and is even superior to public schools.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Hasidic schools, particularly boys’ high schools, where the school day is dominated by Judaic studies. Secular studies are either given short shrift or not taught at all. Their students don’t typically graduate with a state-recognized high school diploma.

Unfortunately, an initial misreading of the revised guidelines worried parents of students in well-performing yeshivas that the state would require an unreasonable six to seven hours a day of secular studies. The state then clarified that the distribution of hours from which that estimate was drawn covered a two-year period, which means the actual requirement is around three-and-a-half hours per day.

But Agudath Israel cynically exploited that momentary confusion and rallied the Modern Orthodox to the defense of the ultra-Orthodox and the Hasidic yeshivas—the schools with serious educational deficiencies. Agudath Israel and a Borough Park-Williamsburg group formed in 2016 called Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools have unfortunately framed this as an attack on the community’s religious beliefs, labeling educational advocates as outsiders set on destroying its way of life.

In fact, the majority of those advocating for educational improvement are former Hasidic students who were never provided a proper education. They care deeply about the Jewish community and about the education and welfare of children.

Portraying the guidelines as an attack on all yeshivas is shortsighted, foolish and dangerous. The education of thousands of children is at stake. One can choose to be misinformed or one can take the time to learn the truth. If the state succumbs to special-interest pressure, the ultimate victims will be more generations of Hasidic children.

New Yorkers should be paying close attention for several reasons. Hasidic schools receive millions of taxpayer dollars. With students emerging without a high school education or even basic English language skills, their career prospects are limited and their families struggle from the start.

A parent’s right to choose to send a child to yeshiva is unquestionable, but there is no parental or communal right to deny children the tools necessary to survive and thrive.

It is no secret that thousands of young Hasidic families, primarily in the communities of Williamsburg, New Square and Kiryas Joel, depend on government aid to survive. Now that their children attend the same or similar schools, we can expect the cycle to continue for another generation.

Advocating for secular education is not about providing abstract information in the classroom. It’s about giving young Jewish men the means through which they can lead dignified lives and support their families, which is a tall order without proper education. They should have the options of joining the workforce and reap opportunities available to all U.S. citizens. Far from being a threat to the community, secular education is the only way to save the community.

Shlomo Noskow is an emergency physician practicing in New York. He is on the board at Yaffed, an organization advocating for improved education in Hasidic schools.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

 

ALL PRIVATE EDUCATION to be Inspected by NYS Dept. of Education

 

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has issued guidelines under which public school officials would inspect private schools to determine whether the education being provided is satisfactory. This stunning announcement has generated massive pushback from the private school community and promises to be an important test of private school autonomy.

The Guidance

An NYSED press release announcing the policy stated that “local public school officials have the responsibility to ensure that the education received by nonpublic school students is substantially equivalent to that received in district public schools. Substantial equivalency means that a program is comparable in content and educational experience.

According to the new guidelines, “All religious and independent schools will be visited as part of the process.” The reviews are slated to begin during the current school year. Going forward, “Superintendents or designees should plan to re-visit the religious and independent schools in their district on a five-year cycle.

After a public school superintendent or designee visits and reviews a private school for a determination of substantial equivalency, the local public school board will vote on that determination. If the school board votes that a private school is failing to achieve substantial equivalency, “the board will provide a reasonable timeframe (e.g., 30-45 days) for parents or persons in a parental relationship to identify and enroll their children in a different appropriate educational setting.” After that, “the students will be considered truant if they continue to attend that school.

Private School Response

The private school response has been resolute in rejecting the terms of the new policy. In a letter to New York State Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia, the New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents declared its refusal to submit to the visitations by public school officials: “We write to inform you that the New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents, representing some 500 Catholic schools, rejects the recently released ‘substantial equivalency’ guidelines and is directing all diocesan Catholic schools not to participate in any review carried out by local public school officials.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America and member of the CAPE board, also expressed strong opposition to the new policy: “The notion that our schools have to provide an education that is ‘substantially equivalent’ to that provided in the public schools, as measured by the specific courses offered and the hours required to be devoted to those courses, is patently absurd. Parents who reach deep into their pockets, often at considerable sacrifice, to enroll their children in religious or independent schools do so precisely because they seek an education that is substantially inequivalent to that which is offered in the public schools. Any governmental regulation of how nonpublic schools go about their educational business must be done, if at all, with a light touch — not with the heavy hand New York State has displayed with its new substantial equivalency guidance.

Jim Cultrara, Co-Chairman of the New York State CAPE, offered the following statement in response to the NYSED guidance: “The parents who choose our schools can have great confidence in their academic rigor and while the state has a right to establish minimum basic secular education standards for all schools, the measurement of religious and independent schools’ performance against those standards must be consistent, objective and reflect the right of parents to choose a school that they determine is best suited to educate their children. Giving local public school officials the authority to evaluate and determine whether our schools can operate is simply unacceptable.

National Implications

As an article at Reason.com observed, the new policy gives a private school’s local competitor – the public school board – the power to declare it educationally deficient. “Would anybody trust Microsoft with the power to determine if its competitors should be allowed to exist?” The new policy could be a bellwether for other states and is therefore being watched intently by friends and foes of private education across the country. Keep your eyes open for updates on this situation in future editions of CAPE Outlook.

Man Charged in Kidnapping Lev Tahor Children – Cult’s Ambassador, But How Fine a Line is it Between them and the Next Most Radical Group?

Brooklyn man charged with kidnapping in connection with Jewish extremist ‘cult’

A Brooklyn man has been arrested in connection with two kids who disappeared after escaping from an extremist “cult” in Guatemala, authorities said.

Aron Rosner — the brother of a top official in the Jewish sect Lev Tahor — was arrested by the FBI and State Police at about 1 a.m. in Williamsburg on Sunday, according to sources and police officials.

Yante and Chaim Teller
Yante and Chaim TellerNY State Police

Rosner was charged with kidnapping and obstruction of justice following the Dec. 8 disappearance of 14-year-old Yante and 12-year-old Chaim.

The kids returned to New York after leaving the controversial, nomadic Lev Tahor community, which consists of roughly 35 families living in a compound in Guatemala. They were last seen with their mother in upstate New York.

“He’s the ambassador of Lev Tahor to the US,” a source said of Rosner, who was expected to be arraigned as early as Monday.

Marijuana in New York – Kosher Cannabis – Not Part of this Article, But Likely For the Shelves

Cannabis

Marijuana Gear for Discerning New Yorkers Is Flying off the Shelves

Higher Standards in Chelsea Market is breaking sales records this holiday season. How about a $6,000 glass pipe in the shape of a skateboard? 

 

Marijuana’s push into the mainstream now includes a store inside Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, where a holiday shopper seeking a gift for that cannabis connoisseur in their life can spend $6,000 on a glass pot pipe in the shape of a skateboard.

Higher Standards, a Miami-based company that makes marijuana accessories, launched its first retail location a year ago inside the high-end mall, which draws thousands of local foodies and tourists heading west to the High Line.

In addition to expensive bongs and vaporizers, there’s a selection of rolling papers, glass containers for matches and even a $350 marijuana infuser for the home chef looking to make edibles that are a bit more precise than dorm-room pot brownies. This is weed culture in 2018: upscale and out in the open—even in New York, where pot is still mostly illegal.

“There’s still a wink and nod in New York,” said Sasha Kadey, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Higher Standards. “There’s advantages in a business like ours, which doesn’t touch the plant.”

Kadey was referring to a dividing line in the cannabis industry between companies that “touch the plant,” or deal with marijuana directly, and those that don’t. The Higher Standards store in Chelsea Market set a single-day sales record on Black Friday, and then topped it on Dec. 8, the retailer said.

The store, which offers gift wrapping, of course, will be profitable this year, according to Kadey. The company plans to open as many as five additional locations next year, including one in Atlanta that’s expected to be ready just in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

A different kind of skateboard./Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

Back in New York, with signs that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wants to legalize pot for adult recreational use, Higher Standards could be well-positioned to capitalize. MedMen, a U.S. cannabis company that has a medical-use dispensary on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, is reportedly interested in opening a new store a few steps from Chelsea Market.

These days, cannabis culture is becoming part of everyday life. Pot is now legal for adult use across Canada and in 10 U.S. states, with easing regulations driving an investment boom that’s seen the value of publicly traded marijuana companies surge. Still, federal laws barring marijuana possession have complicated matters.

 

Marijuana pipes and bongs have long been available across New York in bodegas and smoke shops, often with a requisite winking admonishment that the products are only for tobacco. Higher Standards, meanwhile, has sought to “elevate” the marijuana accessories shopping experience.

A wide selection of gifts for pot enthusiasts./ Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

The retailer wanted to be in New York because the city is on the cutting edge of retail trends, Kadey said, adding that the company was also taking advantage of the surging curiosity around cannabis. In New York, everyone is hearing about weed and legalization, and the store has become a place to get a look at how the industry is evolving, he said.

To read the remainder of the article in Bloomburg, click here.