NYC Yeshivas and More than $100M in Public Funds they Collect

NYC yeshivas collect more than $100M a year in public funds




New York City yeshivas collect more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds — a lot to lose if the religious schools are found to deny students basic instruction in English, math and science.

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

Much is at stake. The city Department of Education gave Jewish day schools $97 million for teachers, books and afternoon busing last fiscal year, the DOE told The Post. But that’s only a partial accounting of the largesse, officials acknowledged.

The yeshivas — like other non-public schools — get millions more for pre-K programs, special-ed, food, child-care, security, technology and record-keeping on immunizations, attendance and state exams.

“If you add all the state and federal funding, it would be at least twice as much,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of YAFFED, a group seeking enforcement of state standards. It spurred a probe, which has dragged on for 3 ¹/₂ years, of 39 yeshivas accused of skimping on secular education.

The DOE has yet to comply with The Post’s Freedom of Information Law request for funding data on the 39 schools — a request filed 22 months ago.

Four Brooklyn yeshivas, all high schools, have refused to let DOE inspectors inside to review their curricula, Chancellor Richard Carranza has told the state.

“For those yeshivas that refuse inspection, their funding should be shut out of any DOE contract,” said Patrick Sullivan, a former member of the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which approves school contracts.

Avi Greenstein, leader of a group formed to defend the yeshivas, has said the schools want clarification on the state guidelines. Greenstein did not return messages last week.

Of $84 million in federal aid for academic instruction in non-public schools with low-income kids last year, the DOE funneled $36 million to 103 yeshivas, said DOE spokesman Will Mantell.

The DOE also distributed $7 million in state funds to 201 Jewish schools for books, and $54 million in state and city cash to 133 yeshivas for busing after 4 p.m., Mantell said. He did not give a figure for busing earlier in the day or list all funding for other services.

Some ultra-Orthodox parents have transferred their kids to more progressive yeshivas to give them a better secular education, or they pay for extra tutoring.

“I don’t care about the taxpayers,” one mom told The Post. “I care about having to pay $300 for a math class my 12-year-old son has to take at 6 to 7 p.m. after a long day of Jewish studies.”

Meanwhile, some yeshivas have been accused of ripping off taxpayer funds or have come under FBI investigation. Last March, two former staffers of the Williamsburg-based Central United Talmudical Academy pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to stealing $3.2 million that the state Health Department paid to feed needy kids.

Overall, the city spends at least $255 million a year for non-public schools, including $151 million for transportation, according to Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office.


Palm Tree, NY and Yiddish, Parent Alleges 5th Grader Cannot Speak or Read English and Cannot Perform Math

Parent of yeshiva student: Fifth-grade son barely knows alphabet, doesn’t speak English


A parent of an Orthodox yeshiva student in Orange County is alleging the school isn’t teaching basic studies like math and English, even though it’s now required by the state.

The Hasidic father asked that his identity be concealed in a News 12 exclusive about the private school system in the ultra-Orthodox community of Palm Tree, formerly known as Kiryas Joel.

The man says his 11-year-old son goes to Yeshiva Sheri Torah on Larkin Drive in Monroe and claims the fifth-grader barely knows the alphabet, doesn’t speak English and can only add and subtract single-digit numbers.

New state Education Department guidelines require that private schools provide an education equivalent to a public school and teach subjects like math, science, English and social studies.

The father claims the yeshiva isn’t. He says when he asked about it, he was told to stop or else his son will be removed from school.

“No one can talk too much because the office of the yeshiva have the power to do what they want,” he says.

News 12 tried going to the yeshiva, and was sent to the administration building where no one was available to comment either.

Just last month, the community’s grand rabbi instructed followers to ignore the new guidelines, threatening to “wage war” against the state.

State officials say local school districts are responsible to enforce the rules. In this case, that would be the Monroe Woodbury School District. The superintendent says promised training and guidance on how to do so has not been given by the state.

Monroe-Woodbury School Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez said in this case, she’d need a formal complaint from the parent in order to investigate.

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.

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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 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.

Yeshiva Education and the Krakowski’s Bait and Switch, Perhaps the Kids Should Have a Voice

Note to our readers: 
We are posting a small piece of an article posted in the Forward, authored by Moshe Krakowski, who claims to have studied Yeshiva education for the better part of 15 years. However, he himself did not attention Yeshiva, as we understand it. He has not suffered what it is like to live outside of the community on the woefully inadequate education provided by many (specifically not all) yeshivas. He also, apparently, did not take the time to speak in depth to those on the side of Yeshiva oversight, but rather took a 3000 foot look at one side of the argument, the benefits of Yeshiva education.
We believe that current public school education is also sorely lacking. Critical thinking found in Yeshivas is missing from most public school curricula. Common core is something of a disaster and our children are far surpassed by the education of children in Europe, Asia and even some countries in South and Central America. But to ignore that children are graduating school in the United States unable to speak English (the language of the country) is unacceptable, even if all else is deemed appropriate. 
What follows is a letter to the editor and a few excerpts from Krakowski’s piece in the forward.


This article is a classic bait and switch. 

The author begins by talking about Yaffed and it’s campaign to fix the woeful secular education in the 39 largest chasidic yeshivas in New York State, but then shifts gears and describes the curriculum of your average non-chasidic yeshiva. This confusion is done intentionally. The fact remains, the 39 chasidic yeshivas identified by Yaffed do not even teach the basics of secular education. Some chasidic yeshivas teach no secular education at all. Even those that do teach a minimum of secular education, barely teach the basics of English and math, which stops altogether after 8th grade. 

While its true that talmud study does teach students critical thinking, but without a proper educational foundation, having critical thinking alone is not helpful. It’s akin to building a beautiful penthouse, without the building’s foundations. Contrary to this authors assertions, chasidic yeshivas students learn neither fractions, algebra, science, history, nor proper English grammar. They do not take the regent exams. They do not receive high school diplomas. It’s unfortunate that this author, who did receive a sound secular education should defend an education system that doesn’t afford its students the same opportunities he was given


In the last few years, advocacy groups have criticized yeshivas (Orthodox private schools) in the New York area for offering students a substandard education.

YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education) recently sued New York state, challenging the constitutionality of a recent amendment to an education law directed at these schools, and has argued that their education is not “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools. In the last few weeks, the State Education Department released their own guidance regarding ‘substantial equivalence’ that poses significant challenges to the current Yeshiva curricular structure.

This movement has placed intense public focus on the yeshiva system. Yet these schools’ aims and methods remain poorly understood—even by many of those calling for their reform.

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YAFFED – The Year that Was, 2018

Dear friend,

Throughout the year, YAFFED has gained an extraordinary amount of media attention and publicity for an organization of its size. Our work has been in featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, as well as television and radio networks throughout New York, including NY1 and WNYC.

Here are some highlights from the last year.

  • January 2018 – YAFFED hosts dialogue between Yeshiva and public school graduates about the legacy and values of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • February 2018 – YAFFED places billboard in Williamsburg and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn calling on Yeshivas to provide an appropriate amount of general education to their students.
  • March 2018 – State Senator Simcha Felder inserts a last-minute amendment to the state budget intended to hamper enforcement of “substantial equivalency” in Yeshivas. YAFFED rushes to Albany to oppose the amendment, which ultimately passed. However, a far worse proposal that would’ve protected neglectful Yeshivas altogether failed.
  • April 2018 – Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County announces its opposition to any weakening of substantial equivalency standards for private schools.
  • May 2018 – YAFFED receives a death threat, highlighting the intense opposition to any change in the status quo.
  • June 2018 – YAFFED’s Executive Director Naftuli Moster speaks out in favor of a resolution before the Rockland County Legislature that would’ve called on the State Legislature to create an enforcement mechanism for education standards in private schools. The resolution, which failed narrowly in committee, enjoyed widespread support in the county legislature itself.
  • July 2018 – YAFFED releases “Three Years of Broken Promises” video calling on New York City to stop dragging its feet in its investigation of general education in some Yeshivas.
  • July 2018 – YAFFED files federal lawsuit against New York State to halt implementation of State Senator Simcha Felder’s amendment to the New York Education Law.
  • August 2018 – NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza issues public letter describing the obstacles his department has faced in investigating for Yeshivas for not providing adequate education. That investigation was launched following a 2015 letter from YAFFED.
  • August 2018 – New York Times editorial board rebukes the state and city governments for neglecting tens of thousands of children in Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas.
  • September 2018 – YAFFED calls out Governor Cuomo for making a pre-election deal with the Satmar Rebbe to lessen state oversight of Yeshivas.
  • September 2018 – At a public hearing, YAFFED Executive Director Naftuli Moster hand-delivers a copy of a class schedule from a Yeshiva showing under an hour of secular studies.
  • October 2018 – The New York Post warns that increasing tension between Mayor de Blasio and Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters threaten an important inquiry into the Mayor’s handling of the Yeshiva investigation.
  • November 2018 – Felder loses his status as a swing vote in the State Senate, opening new possibilities for positive change. In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Naftuli Moster calls on the new legislature to repeal the Felder Amendment.
  • November 2018 – YAFFED activists publicly question Administration of Children’s Services commissioner David Hansell about why his agency routinely overlooks educational neglect in Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas.
  • November 2018 – After years of effort by YAFFED, New York State Education Department finally issues revised guidelines for general education in private schools.
  • December 2018 – YAFFED translates and publishes a speech by the Satmar Rebbe, in which he admits that Yeshivas in his community don’t provide adequate secular education.
  • December 2018 – YAFFED leads the way in defending New York State education guidelines against spurious attacks.
  • December 2018 – YAFFED hosts Chanukkah Party and panel discussion, 60+ attendees in Brooklyn.

Please help us continue this important work in 2019 by making a contribution of any amount you can afford.

Today we released a statement welcoming the New York State Education Department’s clarification pertaining to the recently revised guidelines for substantial equivalency in non-public schools.

Are you keeping up with the news? Here’s a brief list of recent news coverage:

Associated Press:

Wall Street Journal:



Journal News:

NY Post Editorial Board:

New York 1:

NYDN Editorial Board:


Times Herald-Record:

What Do We Owe the Children, the Yeshiva Debate Rages On…


FILE – In this Sept. 20, 2013 file photo, children and adults cross a street in front of a school bus in Borough Park, a neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York that is home to many ultra-Orthodox Jewish families. Critics have charged for years that the rudimentary level of secular education at private yeshiva schools serving New York’s Hasidic communities are deficient in teaching science, geography and math to grade school students. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yeshiva Battle Raises Fundamental Question, “What Do We Owe The Children?”

Understanding what should be the default level of government intervention in a free society isn’t hard. Individuals able to make informed, rational decisions, as long as they do not impose on others by force or fraud, ought to be able to interact without government interference. But children are generally considered incapable of making such decisions about numerous aspects of their lives. Which is why the role of government in education is more complicated than in many other matters, and why a burgeoning battle over yeshivas—Orthodox Jewish schools—in New York cannot be resolved with a simple, “Let the families do what they want.”

At issue is whether some yeshivas are providing children with the educational foundations they need to eventually function as independent adults. Yeshiva graduate Shulem Deen asserted in the New York Times that some yeshivas focus almost exclusively on teaching Hebrew and religion, and furnish little instruction in English or other basic skills. “I know about the cost” of such an education, he wrote, including great difficulty finding employment sufficient to sustain a family.

Yeshiva defenders argue in part that the schools are being smeared. “There are more than 440 yeshivas in New York state, educating 165,000 students,” wrote Rabbis Elya Brudny and Yisroel Reisman in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “There will always be schools that need to improve and students who can be better served. But underperforming schools are the outliers, and they don’t define the yeshiva system.”

Of particular concern not just to the rabbis, but people running religious schools of various stripes in New York, is a state requirement that private institutions provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that in the public schools. This is where the much deeper, more essential response, grounded in freedom and pluralism, from yeshiva advocates comes in.

“Parents who want to send their children to a school offering a course list devised by the state enroll their children in the local public school,” wrote Brudny and Reisman. “But parents who choose religious education want their children to have a specific moral, ethical and religious framework for life.”

So what is the right balance between children’s need to be equipped for eventual independence, and the freedom of the nation’s wonderfully diverse communities?

The answer is emphatically not to require that private schools furnish the same education as public institutions. Freedom as an adult means little if as a child your mind is engineered to think as the state demands. And there is grave danger to diversity and freedom of thought if government dictates that education cannot be solidly constructed around conceptions of what is good and right outside the mainstream.

The good news for pluralism is that it is difficult to impose a strong curriculum on diverse people. But that is bad news for peace and educational quality. What we see in the history of American public schooling is where there have been diverse views, efforts to standardize have sometimes been met by stiff resistance and painful conflict, conflict that has frequently been evaded by people separating themselves or avoided by providing lowest-common-denominator instruction.

Quite simply, equality, peace, and educational rigor need parental and educator freedom. And yet…

Whether parents or the state are making educational decisions, someone is imposing on a child. We accept this because someone other than the child must make such decisions, but to ultimately be a free person that child must be equipped, by the time they have reached adulthood, to make decisions for him or herself. So the answer to what we owe children cannot end at “whatever parents choose” if what they choose would render a child unable to eventually exercise the liberty to which all are entitled.

The way to ensure the eventual liberty of the child, while protecting freedom and diversity in society, is a system in which educators are free to offer education as they see fit—Orthodox Jewish, Roman Catholic, science-intensive, arts-based, etc.—and parents are free to choose. The only role for the state would be to intervene, were a child not being provided with the skills necessary to become a self-governing adult.

What are those skills? There are grounds to debate the exact lines, but I would submit only literacy—including an ability to write—in English, and numeracy perhaps to the level of basic algebra. The former, because while English is not the country’s official language it is the de facto national language, and the latter because it is a gateway to higher math, though most adults use far less.

State intervention would only occur were there reasonable suspicion a child was not receiving these basic skills. Evidence would be collected, and if sufficient, parents would be charged with neglect. Then only if the parents admitted guilt, or were found guilty in a court of law, would government officials be empowered to intervene in a child’s education.

But what of science, history, and other subjects beyond basic skills?

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