Rockland legislator uses social media to harass, restrict debate on yeshiva education
Yoel Falkowitz, a Hasidic father of three, feels that the education his children are getting in a Yeshiva will leave them and other ultra-orthodox Jewish children unprepared to succeed in the outside world. (Video by Seth Harrison/The Journal News)
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.
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.
PHOTOS: Gov. Cuomo Visits Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, Promises Not To Interfere With Yeshiva Education
To see the articles and photos click here.
Education in New York – And the Problem with New York’s Laws, New York’s Department of Education Investigations and Another Perspective…PEARLS
We have been asked by one of our readers why we did not post Avi Schick’s Op-Ed regarding education. Our response, to be blunt, is that we did not see it. By way of introduction, if Naftuli Moster is the Point, Avi Schick is the Counterpoint. If we agree with YAFFED’s position on education, we will likely disagree with that of the organization Avi Schicks supports.
That said, we would be remiss if we did not provide the other edge of the sword.
Avi Schick is a respected attorney and representative of “Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools.” Many of his positions are well articulated and may be a fair representation of views of the community for which he speaks. The comment regarding posting his position we really cannot ignore.
Therefore to be fair, we are posting here a few of the articles regarding PEARLS’ position on this matter, below.
Stop Smearing Yeshivas: They Provide Quality Education
Children walking to school. Illustration Photo.
In Sundays edition of the New York Daily News, Avi Schick, a lawyer and a former New York Deputy Attorney General who is representing the targeted yeshivas, points out a “false note” in the letter from the Department of Education alleging that they were denied access to some yeshivas, and goes on to clarify that those yeshivas do not receive government funding.
by Avi Shick
During my quarter-century practicing law, I have defended a broad range of clients and activities: the state’s anti-smoking laws from cigarette companies, the Working Families Party from an improperly appointed special prosecutor, and numerous insurers, banks, and developers.
None of my clients has been as misunderstood and negatively stereotyped as the Hasidic schools and community I now represent.
For the past three years, they have been forced to endure a relentless campaign against their schools and way of life. The onslaught was triggered by a letter complaining about the education at Brooklyn yeshivas by a group called Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) that was short on specifics but alleged that these schools did not teach in “English from English language textbooks,” and was followed by a public relations campaign meant to harden public opinion against an insular community with a unique culture.
Last week, the city’s Department of Education sent a letter to the state Education Department that was meant to summarize its findings.
Read fairly, the DOE letter confirms that the allegations against the yeshivas are false, and that yeshiva students receive an enriching education in a quality learning environment.
The letter also discussed a unified effort that created a “new, more rigorous secular studies curriculum” that has been widely adopted in Hasidic schools. This curriculum is embodied in textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin and Sadlier Oxford, and has been accompanied by professional development and teacher training to ensure effective implementation.
The DOE has already visited 15 of the 23 elementary schools listed in YAFFED’s complaint, educating more than 13,000 students, and observed serious teaching and learning in each of those schools. The remaining elementary schools, which enroll about 3,000 students, will be visited this fall.
There was one false note in the DOE letter, which was the suggestion that it was denied access to the remaining schools. As the lawyer for all the schools — those visited to date and those to be visited in the coming months — I can state unequivocally that access was not and will not be denied.
For years, news reports cited that YAFFED’s complaint listed 39 yeshivas; the DOE letter reveals that there are only 29. YAFFED alleged that its signatories were current or former parents, students or teachers at all the yeshivas they listed; the DOE letter reveals that they had information about only 11 of the schools. Several of the “schools” listed do not even exist.
To read the remainder of the article click here.
NYC: Orthodox Jewish school leaders promising improvements
New York City education officials saw encouraging signs at 15 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools that were subjects of a 2015 complaint, but they were not allowed access to another 15 schools, according to a letter from city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to the New York state Education Department.
The leaders of the schools that city educators visited “expressed a commitment to expanding students’ exposure to secular instruction and to improving the instruction itself,” the letter sent Wednesday said.
But city Department of Education officials “made repeated attempts to gain access” to another 15 schools that were listed in the complaint by a group that has campaigned for better secular instruction at ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, the letter said.
The two sides on the contentious issue of whether schools, or yeshivas, affiliated with strictly observant Hasidic Jewish sects are preparing students for the modern world drew different conclusions from the letter.
NYC mayor denies he’s been soft on ultra-Orthodox schools
The city launched a probe into its yeshiva system in 2015 following a complaint by the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) activist group. The group asserted that 39 Orthodox institutions were failing to meet standards set by state law requiring private schools to offer a curriculum “substantially equivalent” to that of the public system.
Last week, after three years of work, New York City schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza issued a report stating that 15 out of the 30 yeshivas under investigation did not allow inspectors to enter even though the Department of Education “has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools.”
To read the article in its entirety click here.
What It’s Really Like to Be ultra-Orthodox in America – and Illiterate in English
To read the article in his entirety click here.
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.