10th Yeshiva Closed in NY for Vaccine Order Violation – The Measles Epidemic and the Blatant Disregard for Safety

New York City closes 10th Jewish school for violating vaccine order

NEW YORK (JTA) — New York City is shuttering an Orthodox school in Brooklyn because it has continued to admit unvaccinated students in violation of a city order.

The Central UTA Satmar School for Boys, a Hasidic school in the Williamsburg neighborhood, will be closed Tuesday afternoon for violating the stipulations regarding vaccines and vaccination records, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. It is the 10th Orthodox school in New York City to be closed this year due to the issue, according to a city official with knowledge of the matter.

Williamsburg, which has a large Orthodox population, has been experiencing a measles outbreak since last year that has infected 588 people in New York City. Almost three quarters of those cases have occurred in Williamsburg. The city says the outbreak is largely concentrated in the Orthodox community.

In April, the city declared a public health emergency over the outbreak, mandating people in four Williamsburg Zip codes to vaccinate. The city also announced it would be closing schools in Williamsburg that allow unvaccinated students to attend. Nine of the 10 schools closed thus far are in Williamsburg. The 10th is in the borough of Queens.

In addition, in the past week, the city has issued summonses to 173 people for not complying with the public health emergency order, 68 of whom ended up receiving vaccines or providing proof of immunization.

Orthodox authorities have urged their communities to vaccinate, and advocates of the communities claim that Orthodox vaccination rates in Brooklyn are high.

But according to data shared by the New York City Department of Health, as of the beginning of 2018, only 67 percent of Williamsburg children ages 19 to 35 months had their first dose of the measles vaccine, as opposed to a citywide average of 88 percent. More recent data was not available.

According to data from the State Department of Education, more than 20 Orthodox schools in Brooklyn had immunization rates lower than 90 percent last year. Experts recommend an immunization rate of at least 95 percent.

Rockland County in New York, home to the heavily Orthodox city of Monsey, also has had a significant number of measles cases. Only about 77 percent of the county is vaccinated, according to state data.

In the case of the Satmar school, the city official said, school officials failed to meet deadlines to provide the city with students’ immunization records. When those records were received, investigations showed that the school was still admitting students and faculty who were not vaccinated.

The school has not responded to a JTA request for comment. But a parent at the school told JTA that the issue lies with influential families in the community who do not vaccinate their children and continue to send them to the school, even though the school has asked them not to attend. In general, the parent said, the school encourages vaccination.

“The school endorses it, and they warn everyone to vaccinate, but then there’s people in power that don’t, and then, there’s where the problem comes in,” the parent said. “You have people in power, for example, somebody who gives a lot of money for the yeshiva, or he’s a big rabbi, and his son doesn’t vaccinate… You can send them home for one day, for two days, but, you know, then he’s going to come back… You can’t dismiss him for all.”

The school is not being given advance notice that it is being closed so that school administrators will not falsify documents ahead of time.

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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.

 

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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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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.

NYC Yeshivas Face Closure if Children are Not Vaccinated – Williamsburg, NY

BREAKING: NYC Health Dept Orders Williamsburg Yeshivas to Ban Unvaccinated Children OR FACE CLOSURE

The NYC Health Department announced today it has issued Commissioner’s Orders to all Yeshivas in Williamsburg affected by the school exclusion mandate. This means that any school out of compliance will immediately be issued a violation and possible closure.

  • In December, the Health Department ordered yeshivas and childcare centers serving the Orthodox Jewish community in the affected ZIP codes in Brooklyn to exclude all unvaccinated students from attending school or daycare until the measles outbreak is declared over.
  • In January, one yeshiva in Williamsburg fell out of compliance with the Department’s exclusion mandate, allowing unvaccinated children back into school or daycare. This single yeshiva is connected to more than FORTY CASES, resulting in a large increase in measles cases and the continuation of the outbreak.
  • The Health Department has since issued Commissioner’s Orders to all yeshivas in Williamsburg to comply with the mandatory exclusion of unvaccinated children or face violations subject to fines and possible school closure.

The measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community continues to increase at an alarming rate. To date, 285 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak in October, with many of these new cases being confirmed in the last 2 months. The vast majority of cases are children under 18 years of age (246 cases), and 39 cases are adults. Most of these measles cases were unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated individuals. There have been no deaths associated with this outbreak, although there have been complications, including 21 hospitalizations and five admissions to the intensive care unit.

Ahead of Passover, the Health Department is urging all New Yorkers—especially those in the Orthodox Jewish community—to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to prevent further spread of the virus. Individuals traveling to areas with ongoing large outbreaks, including Israel, Europe, Upstate New York, and other parts of the United States should make sure they and their children are appropriately vaccinated with MMR.

“As a pediatrician, I know the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods. They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk. We’ve seen a large increase in the number of people vaccinated in these neighborhoods, but as Passover approaches, we need to do all we can to ensure more people get the vaccine.”

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The Measles and Another Symbol of an Entrenched Belief in Entitlement and Acting with Impunity

Earlier offender: The measles virus infected 21 students at Williamsburg’s Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov after its educators permitted an unvaccinated, pre-symptomatic kid infected with the virus to attend class. City health officials on Thursday annouced inspectors discovered that leaders of five other neighborhood yeshivas allowed non-vaccinated youngsters in their classrooms amid a growing outbreak of the disease.

Viral violation: More yeshivas defy city orders, allow unvaccinated students in class amid measles outbreak

Department of Health officials on Thursday announced that leaders of five Williamsburg yeshivas violated an emergency order prohibiting non-vaccinated students from attending school amid a growing outbreak of the measles, which already infected at least 21 youngsters at a sixth yeshiva after educators let a sick kid in class.

The city’s chief physician reiterated the importance of inoculating children against the potentially fatal illness, warning that the disease will continue to claim new victims while Kings County youngsters remain unvaccinated.

“As the city’s doctor, and a pediatrician, I am very concerned that children without the measles vaccination are at unnecessary risk for serious, and potentially fatal symptoms related to measles,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The outbreak is not over, and we will continue to see additional cases as long as unvaccinated students are not properly excluded from attending school.”

The five new offending yeshivas include:

• Bnos Square of Williamsburg at 382 Willoughby Ave. between Bedford Avenue and Spencer Street.

• Bnos Chayil at 712 Wythe Ave. between Keap and Hooper streets.

• Bnos Chayil at 345 Hewes St. between S. Fifth Street and Broadway.

• Tuferes Bnos at 585 Marcy Ave. between Myrtle and Vernon avenues.

• Sieche Kinder at 808 Myrtle Ave. between Marcy and Nostrand avenues.

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