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


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,

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.

Non-Compliant Yeshivas and State Funding – Undoing Felder’s Damage, About Time…



Yeshivas could lose state funding for poor education

Yeshivas accused of providing inferior secular education were put on notice Tuesday that they could be shut by the state.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released new guidelines that give her the power to strip funding from yeshivas and other private institutions that fail to provide a “substantially equivalent” education to public schools.

Parents will be notified to send their kids elsewhere — or be deemed “truant” — if they continue to attend noncompliant schools, the guidelines say.

“We want to ensure that all students receive the education they are entitled to under state Education Law, no matter which school they attend,” Elia said.

Complaints about shoddy education at some New York City yeshivas have raged for years.

A probe conducted by the city Department of Education culminated in August with a report that 15 Brooklyn yeshivas refused to even allow officials to enter and review their classes.

Elia warned: “Not letting someone in is not acceptable.”

The three-year city investigation by the DOE also found that at other Jewish schools, students were taught only basic math and no science at all.

Under the new state guidelines, the city Department of Education would continue to review the religious schools, which would have up to three years to clean up their act. Elia said the religious schools would have to provide 180 minutes of instruction per subject per week with “competent” teachers.

In grades 5 through 8, for example, yeshivas would have to provide at least one class per semester of instruction in English, math and science as well as courses in career and tech education.

Some of the changes were triggered by a controversial amendment pushed by Brooklyn state Sen. Simcha Felder — a champion of yeshivas — that was included in the last state budget and which critics complained watered down academic requirements at yeshivas. But Elia said the amendment gives her final authority to determine whether many of the religious schools are teaching the basics or not — and in the most extreme cases of noncompliance shut them down.

Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, which represents parents with kids in yeshivas, said it was pleased the guidelines acknowledge that “religious schools are and will remain different from public schools in curricula, mission, emphasis and instructional approaches.”

But the group expressed concern that public school officials would be evaluating religious schools. “Today’s guidelines will encourage further deviation from the truth in pursuit of political goals,” the organization said.

Enslaving Ultra-Orthodox Children through Ignorance

Orthodox ‘Dropouts’ Still Tethered To Faith

Orthodox ‘Dropouts’ Still Tethered To Faith
 Jonathan Mark
 Associate Editor

The Orthodox fascinate and defy the number crunchers. No group is growing so prodigiously: Seventy-four percent of Jewish children in New York are Orthodox and Satmar’s school system is now larger than all but three public school systems in New York State. And yet, of American Orthodoxy’s 530,000 Jews, perhaps more than 10,000 Orthodox Jews have dropped out to varying degrees, according to Nishma Research. Modest numbers, perhaps, but each of those 10,000 likely could tell a story of sadness and disappointment.

Demographer Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College, an adviser to Nishma’s project  — “Starting a Conversation: A Pioneering Survey of Those Who Have Left the Orthodox Community” — said in a statement about the study: “We live in an age of enormous religious fluidity … but there is little quantitative research on Jews who have left Orthodoxy.” This study by Nishma, a new research firm that financed the independent but non-scientific study, is “particularly significant if we are to understand the future of Orthodoxy and American Jewry,” he said.

What becomes of these lapsed Orthodox, referred to in the report and in the vernacular as “off the derech” (road), presuming that there ever was a single derech in the first place? Several OTD memoirs and even suicides speak of severed relationships and estrangement from their communities. Or is that simply the experience of those authors and a tragic few?

As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to say, people left Orthodoxy not because it was too much but because it wasn’t enough. His maxim was verified by Nishma’s study, which reports that most OTDs felt “pushed” off the derech, disappointed by the Orthodox community, rather than “pulled” or seduced by the “outside” world.

Dropouts have always been part of the Orthodox story, but the Pew Research Center’s most definitive 2013 study found dropouts have fluctuated with the generations, the older generation dropping out with far greater frequency than the younger one. Pew states that there was “a surge [78 percent] switching [out of] Orthodox Judaism from the 1950s to the 1970s, followed by a higher retention within Orthodox Judaism in recent decades.” The retention rate is now soaring among young Orthodox adults (aged 18-30); 83 percent of those who were raised Orthodox still are. That means, however, that 17 percent have left.

Well, not all actually left, a finding that casts a fog over any numbers or conclusions. Unlike Christianity, where belief in Jesus provides a fairly definitive line of religious demarcation, Judaism defines religious fidelity not by belief but by action. Religious Christians don’t “somewhat” believe in Jesus, but Nishma found that 45 percent of the dropouts remained “somewhat” Orthodox. It is interesting that 33 percent of OTDs still believed in God, but it is more pertinent to Orthodoxy that 31 percent still kept kosher, 53 percent still lit Shabbos candles, 68 percent still participated in Shabbos meals and 66 percent still felt an attachment to Israel (and the people of Israel). If one keeps Shabbos (to whatever extent) and kosher, when most Jews don’t, how is that person “off the derech”? And yet, in a highly judgmental community, “with Orthodoxy’s exacting standards,” the study noted, “a respondent could consider himself or herself lapsed and still be more religious than most.”

The respondents still wanted Orthodox-literate children; 70 percent send their children to yeshiva or day school, with only 9 percent sending children to non-Orthodox Jewish schools.

And yet, the more liberal Orthodoxy became, the more it disappointed. Modern Orthodoxy, which has done considerably more than any other Orthodox groups on behalf of women’s Torah study, agunot reform, women’s prayer groups, and women’s lay leadership in synagogues and organizations, nevertheless had more Modern Orthodox women dropouts (22 percent) citing the “status of women” as the No. 1 reason they left. Across the quadrants of the survey (chasidic, Chabad, yeshivish and Modern Orthodox), 20 percent of all female dropouts agreed, the status of women was a problem, but only 3 percent of the male OTDs thought so.

In another counterintuitive finding, although Modern Orthodox schools and rabbis are the most liberal in allowing and even encouraging an open exchange of ideas, Modern Orthodoxy had the most dropouts (9 percent) complaining about the “closed atmosphere” of “no questions, unanswered questions, [or] lack of openness.” That was a higher percentage than among the formerly yeshivish (6 percent), who theoretically were living in a more cloistered, ideologically uniform environment. Indeed, none of the divergent educational methods in Orthodoxy proved to be more successful than any other as a bulwark against “general doubts, [or] loss of faith,” a problem shared by dropouts from the chasidic (15 percent), yeshivish (14 percent), Modern Orthodox (11 percent) and Chabad (10 percent) communities.

The goal of surveying those “off the derech” was to “give this group a voice,” said Mark Trencher, Nishma’s founder and lead researcher (and former president of his local Young Israel). He told The Jewish Week that the survey was not scientific, as there was “no hard data” and “no master list” to gauge the OTD population. The survey, therefore, was crafted, said Trencher, as an “opt-in” conversation, with 885 respondents. Most of the respondents were solicited through nonprofits such as Footsteps and Makom (which helped coordinate the survey), agencies dedicated to assisting OTDs.

Although OTD memoirs often discuss family rejection, the survey found that time heals: familial understanding rose from 15 percent, at the time of leaving Orthodoxy, to more than 40 percent after 10 years. Women reported having a harder time with their families than did men. After leaving, a majority (54 percent) of the lapsed Orthodox felt a void in their non-Orthodox communities, with one of the biggest problems being dating and relationships (24 percent). “I haven’t found a community of likeminded individuals,” wrote one respondent, “and don’t feel as connected as I would like in terms of socializing.” Forty-three percent of respondents agreed. Despite the attention given to the difficulty of being Orthodox and single, the so-called “shidduch crisis,” only 5 percent of women and less than 1 percent of men cited it as a significant factor in their decision to leave. Dating on the “outside” could be harder, not easier.

Men were more likely to say that they left because of intellectual issues, with complaints about the “learning and thought processes,” or religion’s absence of “proof.” Women shared those intellectual issues but were more bothered (9 percent) than men (3 percent) by communal “rumors, judging, and gossip.”

LGBTQ Jews left after coming to the conclusion that they would never be accepted within their communities. “My identity as a transgender person was ignored and denied by all the rabbis I reached out to,” said one. “I had many LGBTQ friends and struggled with reconciling that part of my life with my yeshiva life.”

Some OTDs lived a double life, questioning internally, acting Orthodox externally. These “double-lifers,” Nishma concluded, “are not ready to emerge publicly and may never do so,” although 39 percent say they likely will go public, someday.

The survey didn’t indicate that some “double-lifers” happily embrace their ambivalence. Jay Lefkowitz, an attorney, writing in Commentary, explained that he is a practicing Modern Orthodox Jew, though not a believing one, because “I’m a Jet,” like the gang in West Side Story. When you’re Orthodox, you’re “never alone … never disconnected.” Between shul, schools, interests, Shabbos meals, he felt “home with your own” and surely “company’s expected.”

Lefkowitz defined his group as “social Orthodox.” Religious practice, he explained, “is an essential component of Jewish continuity,” so “social Orthodox” Jews “are observant — and not because they are trembling before God.” He puts on tefillin, eats vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants, and yet theological questions “weren’t particularly germane to my life as an observant Jew.”

He’s not alone. The Jewish Week has reported that a substantial number of Modern Orthodox teens might go to shul on Shabbos, but also text on their phones, part of a phenomenon known as “half-Shabbos.” Nevertheless, they consider themselves Orthodox. Others do the same and think of themselves as lapsed.

Lefkowitz attends an Orthodox shul, sends his children to an Orthodox school and sent his daughter to the Israeli army. “I would appear to be the very model of an Orthodox Jew, albeit a modern one,” he writes. In the end, “We behave as Jews so we can belong as Jews … so we will not be disconnected, and we will never be alone.”


Yeshivas and Substandard Education



Some Hasidic Yeshiva leaders and their PR and lobbyist representatives often argue that they don’t have enough funding to provide their students with a secular education.

Many uninformed taxpayers fall for this.
In reality, millions, if not hundreds of millions, of tax dollars are already being poured into these very schools that often don’t even meet the funding criteria or misuse the funding.*

Additionally, Yeshivas receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in TAX-DEDUCTIBLE contributions from wealthy individuals, often oblivious to the fact that the children attending those schools are being denied an education.

DISCLAIMER: THESE GRAPHS ARE ROUGH ESTIMATES**. It’s extremely difficult to figure out specifically how much money Yeshivas get from various sources, or how much of their revenue comes from federal, state, and local government programs. (This reflects a serious lack of transparency on their part and on the part of the various government agencies.)

For that we turn to you and ask that you help us paint a more complete picture of the Yeshiva funding, so that we can properly include it in our discussions.
Do you work at a Yeshiva or at an agency that funnels money to non-public schools, or have experience working the books at any private school?

If yes, please email us with whatever info you have at

Why Don’t Yeshivas Provide a Better Education?

Defining Education – Balancing Interests



ROBISON: How, exactly, should a ‘school’ be defined?

The complex world in which we live demands clarity in the definitions that are used, and, proper application of those definitions during the decision making process. One such case is the question of exactly what constitutes a school.

The importance of this issue is readily apparent in Lakewood, where there are now over 125 nonpublic schools, and land use laws that permit a school to placed just about anywhere. Less than one-third are listed on the New Jersey Department of Education website as a recognized or accredited school.

However, the importance of clear definitions that are properly used is pertinent to every municipality and school district. The impact of poor definitions, or disregard for clearly established definitions, on the local planning process and the taxpayers’ burden is significant.

The crux of the issue pertaining to schools is captured in the question: Does an entity that provides any form of education automatically qualify as a school or must that entity meet standards that have been developed by the state Department of Education, various statutes and subsequent court decisions?

There is a fundamental difference between a religious education center and a school. While the former is an absolutely essential element in our society, where freedom of religion and separation of church and state are cornerstones of a functioning democracy, such centers should not automatically qualify for various forms of support such as the busing of students or other state and local aid.

The religious education that occurs must be in addition to, and not in place of, the basic education that is required to be provided by a school before public support of any kind is provided. Dare I say a “thorough and efficient” education must be provided?

We must also constructively differentiate between vocational education and religious education at the secondary level. Entities such as the Ocean and Monmouth County Vocational School Districts do provide career training but they also provide basic academic training in-house or in concert with a local school district. These districts meet the compulsory education requirements.

In comparison, I submit that meeting the requirements of ordination in just about every faith requires study above and beyond the secondary level at an accredited university such as Beth Madresh Govoha or Princeton Seminary. Religious education at the secondary level and beyond, which is the choice of the student or parent, is above and beyond the compulsory education requirements established in New Jersey.

Similarly, if an applicant to a local zoning board of adjustment incorrectly defines a religious education center as a school, then the special privileges and considerations afforded to an inherently beneficial use should not apply.

The value of being treated as an inherently beneficial use must not be underestimated. It is significant. Depending on the specific wording of the local planning and zoning ordinance(s) an inherently beneficial use provides an opportunity for exceptions to established zoning standards without having to outline the positive and negative criteria that may result from the proposed project.

Zoning requirements play a major role in establishing the character of a neighborhood not to mention the market value of the land and improvements in that neighborhood. The burden of proof must rest with the entity claiming to be a school in order to be treated as an inherently beneficial use before a local zoning board.

Defining an entity as a school for either public funding or treatment as an inherently beneficial use does not create an undue burden. For example, in the case of secondary school-age children does an entity claiming to be a school issue a diploma that is sanctioned or recognized by the state? For both secondary and elementary age school children is there a curriculum that is actually implemented by a state approved teaching staff that provides basic instruction that will allow a child to advance academically and grow into a contributing member of society?

Every school board and municipal governing body has an excruciatingly difficult challenge when it comes to balancing the need to provide public services with the need to minimize tax rates. This job should not be made more difficult through imprecise definitions that lead to questionable allocations of public monies or inappropriate decisions affecting local development, which in turn generate a greater burden on municipal and school service delivery.

Frederick W. (Rob) Robison is a former borough administrator in Roselle and Atlantic Highlands. He lives in Lakewood.

Victims…old people and children-sponsored and abetted by NY State agencies and Cuomo-failures to step up




What Defines “Imminent Danger” Where Children are Concerned?

Lost Messiah Contributor, July 20, 2016

A recent study by uncovered abuses, the likes of which parallel the abject failure of New York State governance of Nursing Homes to sufficiently protect the frail and aged.

In this case, it’s all about the subsidies going to poorly or completely un-monitored day care facilities for children which are given vouchers funded by the Administration of Children’s Services-ACS. The funding is provided but that is where ACS begins and ends in the process.

The optics of citizen money being generously given to under served communities to pay for child care services may seem on its face to be for the greater good; but the troubling data and disproportionate numbers in Borough Park would suggest something else is going on.

The investigation by is troubling because “legally exempt” childcare facilities are also exempt from reporting.  Their “informal” nature provides a window for subsidies but no parameters for care.


Cuomo’s Day Care Regs Omit Thousands of Informal Providers report:

After a legislative committee failed to approve a law to give the state significantly more power over certain city-registered daycare programs, Gov. Cuomo recently unveiled a set of “emergency regulations.” The amended rulesgive the Office of Children and Family Services, at least temporarily, more leeway to act in cases of “egregious violations”—or health and safety issues—at state-licensed daycare facilities. And a new state law passed last month will require the 2,300 daycares registered with the city’s health department to post “performance summary cards” at their entrances.

What these reforms do not address, however, are the approximately 24,000 providers in the city “legally exempt” from both city and state licensing, but “enrolled” with the state to receive day care subsidies awarded to parents, according to 2015 statistics. They account for about half of the providers enrolled in New York City last year. Yet almost no information about legally-exempt providers is made public. Neither the performance summary card law nor the Cuomo regulations will apply to this category of care.

The state’s Office of Children and Family Services  (OCFS) says it is working to implement new federally mandated regulations statewide, including “extended background checks” for legally exempt providers. And some safeguards, it says, are already in place.

“Legally-exempt providers enrolled in the child care subsidy program are exempt from the regulations under which licensed and registered child care providers operate, but they are not exempt from all oversight,” according to Janice Molnar, OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Care Services.

Oftentimes they are family child care providers—friends, family and neighbors providing “informal care in their homes to no more than two unrelated children.” And they already are screened to see that they meet “basic health and safety” standards, she says.

But John Pinkos, director of the childcare division of the Day Care Council of New York, contends that those standards are so minimal, it hardly matters. “There’s no expertise, there’s basically no monitoring,” Pinkos says.

Even at licensed facilities which are given initial and annual inspections, violations—including public health hazards—are common.

At legally exempt programs, parents are responsible for making sure their children are in good hands.

A City Limits investigation found that:

  • Complaints and violations lodged against the majority of legally-exempt providers are not available in the state’s online database for licensed daycares, and are also not listed on the city’s website. Only parents whose children are already enrolled with a provider get mailed notification of infractions at a site, according to a spokesperson for The Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), the non-profit which employs the 23 inspectors to investigate all complaints lodged against legally exempt providers and to conduct other screenings.
  • Whedco is under a more than $6 million annual contract with the state to determine which providers may be considered legally exempt from licensing but still receive payments from a variety of child-care subsidies awarded to families (other informal arrangements would be seen simply as babysitting). The organization conducts random inspections of 20 percent of legally exempt providers annually, as required by the state.
  • In addition to home-based care, there are 167 legally exempt “center-based” daycare providers not listed anywhere publicly. Only the directors of these programs are given background checks in order to become enrolled providers, according to WHEDco, though some fall under the purview of the city’s health department or under that of the Department of Education.
  • The vast majority of the city’s 167 legally-exempt center-based programs—144 of them—are located in Brooklyn. A single ZIP code in Borough Park is home to 35 legally exempt centers, according to information released after a recent FOIL request to the Administration of Children’s Services, which assists with the initial screening of providers for benefits eligibility.

Little oversight

In 2015, 30 percent of children using day-care subsidies were taken care of by “legally exempt” providers, who compete with licensed providers like the ones Pinkos’ organization represents for per-seat funding.

According to a report by the Committee For Hispanic Children and Families, Inc., an education and advocacy organization with the stated goal of expanding opportunities for Latino families, subsidies come from ACS’s Division of Early Care and Education, which administers publicly-funded childcare for children aged six weeks to four years of age in group centers and family child care settings; the Human Resources Administration voucher program for child care services, serving primarily children whose parents participate in welfare-to-work or transitioning off public assistance; and the Department of Education (DOE).

But while legally exempt facilities must enroll with the state in order to receive subsidy checks distributed by the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), that is where contact with providers begins and ends, according to the agency.

“ACS funds child care vouchers that are accept by a number of privately run child care organizations. Legally-exempt child care programs are one type of program that accepts vouchers,” read a statement by the agency.

Parents who opt for legally-exempt caregivers are responsible for paying and monitoring them as they would employees, and are reminded in writing that they are responsible for checking up on their kids.

In New York City, WHEDco provides what little oversight there is, enrolling providers on a rolling basis from four locations located throughout the boroughs.

WHEDco’s sign-up package for new legally-exempt providers encourages them to go through 10 hours of training for “enhanced” subsidies on things like “shaken baby syndrome.” But no such training is required.

To read the article in its entirety click here.