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.

NYS Ed Department Framed Vaccination as a First Amendment Right – Whose Rights are at Stake?

State Education Department ordered Jewish school to accept unvaccinated kids

Amid a record-setting nationwide measles outbreak driven largely by New York cases, the state ordered a Long Island school to accept unvaccinated kids into its classes and after-school activities.

The Shulamith School for Girls in Cedarhurst says the state Education Department was wrong to twice overturn the school’s decision to bar Ilana and Nikolay Jinjihashvili’s two daughters after the parents sought a religious exemption to the vaccination rule.

The Jewish day school is now asking a federal judge to overturn Education Commissioner Mary­Ellen Elia’s orders, calling them “illegal, void and unenforceable.”

While the current measles outbreak has put the vaccination debate at the forefront of public health, the school is framing the dispute as a First Amendment fight.

“There are schools that have taken the position that under the school’s religious belief, as a matter of Jewish law, students should be vaccinated,” the school’s lawyer, Philip Kalban, told The Post. The parents may have a different and “sincere” belief about vaccinations, Kalban explained, “but they say it’s based on Jewish law, and our position is that Jewish law says just the opposite.”

The First Amendment comes into play because the school argues the state has no business interfering in a religious matter.

The case landed in Brooklyn federal court last week after the family sought to send their girls to an ­after-school art show and fundraiser but were blocked by the school.

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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.”

 

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The Housing Market – Increasingly Controlled by Private Equity – Creating a Crisis [audio]

It’s not just the market in your city. Or your neighbourhood. Or your budget or financial situation. There’s a shadowy global financial practice at work that is fuelling the housing crisis in cities around the world. And nobody knows how to stop it.

Today we’ll explore the shady-but-legal practice of private equity firms approaching housing as a commodity for investment at scale, in cities around the world, including Canada. What happens when a dwelling that should be a forever home for a family becomes just a trade chip amongst tens of thousands of others, to be bought and sold solely based on profit margin? Nothing good, you would imagine. And you’d be right. But can cities and governments figure out a plan to stop it?

GUESTS: Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing; and Fredrik Gertten, documentary filmmaker

(You can watch the trailer for their film, Push, and find out where it’s playing, right 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.

Homelessness in NY, Real Estate Enterprises and Sweetheart Deals and The Money that Owns NY Politics

De Blasio and Cuomo are failures on homelessness, report says

De Blasio and Cuomo are failures on homelessness, report says

Homelessness in New York City is projected to increase by 5,000 people in 2022 — 7,500 more than Mayor de Blasio predicted when he outlined his plan to tackle the problem in 2017, a new report from the Coalition for the Homeless revealed.

The report — the findings of which the Daily News obtained Monday — projects the spike unless de Blasio “immediately changes course” by increasing the number of apartments set aside for the homeless by 30,000.The Coalition, which plans to release its report Tuesday, slammed both de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo, giving both failing grades in four categories.

De Blasio got an F for his inability to create more housing. Cuomo received failing grades for his performance on housing vouchers, homelessness prevention and cost-shifting practices that the Coalition claims hurt the city.

“The mayor currently has a completely inadequate plan to address homelessness,” Coalition policy director Giselle Routhier said.

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In the city’s 2017 Turning the Tide on Homelessness report, de Blasio administration officials predicted the shelter population would dip by 2,500 by 2022.

But according to Routhier and the Coalition, that isn’t happening unless the city creates more permanent affordable housing, more quickly. Routhier would like to see 24,000 new apartments created through new construction and 6,000 added through preservation efforts.

“With this simple change, the city can provide thousands of homeless men, women, and children with safe, clean, and stable homes,” she said.

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De Blasio recently made a move to add more permanent affordable housing to the mix when it purchased 17 properties used as “cluster” site homeless shelters from notorious landlords Jay and Stuart Podolsky for $173 million. The two pleaded guilty to dozens of felonies in 1986 in relation to their Manhattan real estate holdings. They hired Frank Carone, a de Blasio donor and friend, to shepherd their most recent deal with the city to the finish line..

While technically adding permanent affordable housing to the market and potentially improving the lives of tenants, the units will house many of the same homeless people they housed when classified as shelters.

The Coalition did not spare Cuomo in its assessment either, taking him to task for not increasing the money it puts toward housing vouchers and failing to come up with a better plan to house people leaving prison.

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