June 4, 2019
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.
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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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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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A Drug Problem Within the Haredi Population in Manchester, England – Rabbis, Please Help These Children
We would like to thank Yeshiva World News for covering the story below. We make absolutely clear to all readers that it is quite likely that YWN is not a supporter of this site or our coverage and perspective. That said, it does not diminish our respect for them and the work they do. We do not always agree with their coverage but they have a readership and circulation that they are beholden to and despite that, they cover stories such as the one below. We do not necessarily agree with the perspective the article took.
The issue, as we see it, is not that these girls were compelled to travel on Shabbat but that there is a growing and significant drug problem in the Yeshiva community in Manchester, England. We have been advised via a source, that the rabbis within the community know that there are a significant number of children, mostly boys, who are using drugs and either ignore the problem or actively cover it up. We have been advised that the drug of choice is Opiods.
We have further been told that the Manchester Police have been looking the other way.
We are not writing this article to condemn the actions of a rabbinical community trying to keep a drug problem quiet. It is not a shining example of how one wants a community, a family of children to be perceived. But, to the rabbis, teachers, parents and community leaders, closing your eyes to the problem or looking the other way will not make it go away. It will only get worse. The children who are using are sick and they need help as they would with any other disease.
We applaud the Chabad organization that refused to house these kids to prevent them from traveling on Shabbat. The Chabad organization stated their refusal is on the grounds that these children had committed crimes. We applaud any group that takes a stance against smuggling drugs (which is ultimately what was happening) and gets the authorities involved.
Drug abuse and addiction will not go away by ignoring it. It is a disease and these children need help like they would if they were sick with any other illness. If they had cancer, they would be given chemo or radiation coupled with love and support. If they had epilepsy or diabetes, they would be treated and loved. The same should be true of drug addiction. And, do not fool yourselves that occasional use of opiods is not addiction. It is.
Teaching religious oriented students is not going to “convince” these children to stop using and apparently it is not successful at influencing them to avoid trying these drugs in the first place. No community is immune, contrary to what the rabbis would have everyone believe. If kids are using, they need serious and medically oriented help. And they need to be embraced and loved.
The kids cannot stop using alone. They need an open and supportive, loving and kind community to help them.
We implore upon the Rabbis of the Manchester, England Yeshiva community to embrace the problem and work to fix it. These children need help, medical attention and love. At least give them that.
Following the YWN report of the arrest of chareidi girls upon their arrival in Manchester for smuggling in Khat (a drug), it has been learned the matter is gaining notoriety throughout areas of Europe, and there are two girls currently under arrest in Oslo.
As YWN-Israel reported, over the past few months, dozens of young charedi men and women have been arrested for smuggling contraband items in Manchester, England. Two girls spent seder night in detention and house arrest after they were apprehended. It is reported that the plant is not illegal in Israel, but it is prohibited in Europe.
BeChadrei Chareidim continues reporting on the case, explaining a number of askanim from Europe have contacted them to publicize the matter pertaining to the two girls detained Seder night, as well as the outrage of a Chabad shaliach whose become involved, albeit, not at his own behest.
Dozens of young chareidi boys and girls are smuggle the drug to Europe. They receive a sum of money and a hotel for three days and are told by the operator that if they get in trouble, they are told that they can “call the local Chabad shaliach”.
Two chareidi girls from Jerusalem were detained for a number of days in Oslo, the capital of Norway, for the attempted smuggling of Khat leaves. They are scheduled to be deported on this coming Shabbos to Israel. [They spent Pesach in detention.]
The Norwegians refuse to put them on a flight with a stopover, insisting on a direct flight, and this only happens on Shabbos, and for now it seems that the two will be forced to be mechalel Shabbos against their will because of the smuggling.
The Chabad shaliach to Oslo, Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm, says in a conversation with BeChadrei Chareidim, that all those who have become entangled with the law in the past few months are asking him if they can stay at the Chabad House and pay as much as they can, but he does not agree. “They are breaking the law and I do not assist lawbreakers,” said Wilhelm.
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The city Health Department shut down two Jewish schools in Brooklyn for failing to submit immunization and attendance records amid the measles outbreak.
The school Tiferes Bnos on Marcy Avenue and preschool Talmud Torah D’Nitra on Bedford Avenue will not be permitted to reopen until the department approves a corrective action plan that addresses the lapses in compliance.
Health officials previously closed five schools – including the United Talmudical Academy’s preschool run by a Williamsburg yeshiva — for failing to comply with the health commissioner’s order.
The order requires yeshivas and child care programs in certain ZIP codes to exclude unvaccinated students and to provide the Health Department with immediate access to medical and attendance records.
All five have been authorized to reopen under Health Department monitoring.
“Schools that continue to disregard our direction during the outbreak will be closed down until they can prove to the Health Department that they will comply,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement.
“The reality is, the longer it takes schools and individuals to comply with our Order, the longer this outbreak will continue,” he added.
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“Further, the PEARLS Petitioners failed to submit evidence that they have suffered concrete constitutional harm from the issuance of the Updated Guidance. The record contains no evidence that the Updated Guidance’s interpretation and recommendations regarding substantial equivalence conflicts irreconcilably with Yeshiva curriculum; no evidence of what secular message the Yeshivas believe they are being forced to deliver in conflict with their beliefs; no evidence of what part or parts of the Yeshivas’ curricula they would be forced to alter; no evidence of what type of efforts, if any, Yeshivas may have to make to attain substantial equivalency; no evidence of how compliance with the substantial equivalence standard will impair their ability to practice their religion or impede their way of life; and no evidence of any current or impending impact on the operation of their schools. Accordingly, this matter may not be determined as a purely legal question.”