An Orthodox Jewish Nobel Laureate Advocates for Yeshiva Accountability in a Dual Education for Children.

Professor Yisrael Aumann is a Nobel Prize-winning Israeli mathematician. He is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has held visiting positions at Princeton, Yale, Berkeley, Louvain, Stanford, Stony Brook, and NYU.

We Must Work Together So That All Yeshiva Students Get a Dual Education

In last week’s Torah reading, Moshe Rabbeinu commands us to choose life — “Uvacharta Bachaim.” From this, the Talmud Yerushalmi in Kiddushin derives that a father must teach his son a trade and thus provide him with a livelihood. In this Talmudic passage, Rabbi Yehuda puts it bluntly: “If a father doesn’t teach his son a trade, it’s as if he taught him highway robbery.”

So it should come as no surprise that, as a frum Jew, I believe that our yeshivas should provide robust secular studies alongside an uncompromised Torah education.

hen my family fled from Germany to the United States in 1938, they enrolled me in a religious elementary school in Boro Park. When it was time to choose a high school, I decided on the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva (RJJ) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

After finishing university in the 1950s, I made aliyah to Jerusalem, and since then have pursued an academic career; but I’ll always remember my yeshiva experience as an exceptionally positive one that had a lasting impact on my life. For that reason, when the lawyers of Agudath Israel asked me for an affidavit describing my experience in yeshiva to urge the New York State Education Department not to intervene in the dual education provided by yeshivas like RJJ, I was glad to provide it.

As I wrote in my affidavit, “The immersive, time-consuming experience of deep Talmud study in an educational setting such as RJJ is absolutely necessary for the continuity of Orthodox Jewish life and practice. We were taught not merely a religion, but a way of life. And in that way of life, we were taught — and to this day I repeat daily — ‘Talmud Torah Kenneged Kulam’: the study of Torah is as important as all other religious observance put together.”

Shortly after news of the affidavit was reported in the Yeshiva World News website under the headline “INCREDIBLE: Nobel Prize Winner & Yeshiva Graduate To NYS Education Dept: ‘Talmud Torah Knegged Kulam!’” I got an email from a Chasidic yeshiva graduate that I found deeply upsetting. He informed me that he himself had received no secular instruction at all; and that most Chasidic yeshivas teach only a few hours a week of sub-par secular studies in elementary school and none at all in high school.

The picture that was painted for me — and later confirmed by other Chasidic graduates and parents of current students — is of young men who often graduate without even the basic skills to operate professionally. In many cases, this leads to poverty, and also to a sense of insuperable handicap.

Having left New York well over 60 years ago, all this was a revelation to me. Despite the distance, I find it impossible to ignore the genuine distress of the young men with whom I corresponded and the grave wrong being perpetrated on generations of children.

I stand behind every word in the affidavit; but knowing what I know now, I ask the public to read it with an emphasis that is perhaps a little different. Namely, that “I had wonderful experiences with BOTH secular and Jewish studies at RJJ. … The credit for my academic success belongs to Mr. Joey Gansler and to the mathematics he taught at RJJ. … If I were asked today to advise Jewish teens who have been admitted to both Stuyvesant and a yeshiva high school about which to attend, I would absolutely recommend that they attend a DUAL-curriculum yeshiva such as RJJ.”

We must continue vehemently to oppose government oversight and intrusion in yeshivas. The government has no right to dictate how we run our schools. But as my affidavit indicates, it does have a right to see to it that all children get a basic secular education that will enable them to be productive members of society. And that is also the Halacha.

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Lakewood – The 10 Questions, Not so Unique, Rockland, Jackson Township, Chester, etc.

Lakewood, a Test Case for Other Areas of New York and New Jersey, but Not Unique

The below article is being reposted without permission, in its entirety from New Jersey.com. We ask that you kindly click here to view the post in its original format as well as to avail yourselves of the advertising of that paper. We have not reposted the video which starts the article.

We note that NJ.com is a subscription service so, if asked to remove this post or any portion of it, we will do so. There is no intent to violate any copyrights. It should be noted that the author of  the article is Mark Pfeiffer, a non-Orthodox Jew. He is assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers. The rest of the credits for the article can be found at the end of the post. 

We make one single criticism of the article. Lakewood is mentioned as a unique situation, one not contemplated by our government’s founding fathers. We believe that Lakewood is not unique. A similar pattern can be seen throughout New York and New Jersey and likely in other parts of the country, like areas of Pennsylvania with students who attend the Lakewood Yeshiva. Insofar as Kiryas Joel is now the first religious town in the country, it also should be viewed in terms of a possible endpoint for Lakewood, except perhaps to the extent that Lakewood straddles a finer line between modernity and insularity.

Kiryas Joel or “Palm Tree, New York” has been for many years one of the poorest towns in the country. It is and will continue to represent one of the heaviest burdens on public resources throughout the United States. 

What’s next for Lakewood? 10 questions moving forward

Editor’s note, Part 9: Over the past nine days, NJ Advance Media has been taking a closer look at Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing and most complex towns. Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels. Each day, we have explored some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system. Today, a look ahead.

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

LAKEWOOD–Neighborhoods change.

Newcomers move in. Old-time residents leave. Stores open and close. Politics shift.

Such is Lakewood, fast growing and changing faster, dramatically transforming the Ocean County township that’s already eclipsed many New Jersey cities in population.

But where is it headed?

A pair of Orthodox teens share a ride on a bicycle on the sidewalk outside of Georgian Court University in Lakewood. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Lakewood found itself in the glare of unwanted attention this summer after 26 members of the Orthodox community were accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in Medicaid and other public assistance.

Even before that, however, there has been turmoil and controversy, from a financial crisis brought on by school busing to private yeshivas, to unchecked growth and development that chokes the town daily with traffic, to basic questions about the separation of church and state.

Nearly 1,00 members of the Orthodox community listen during a meeting organized by the Vaad, Lakewood’s religious council. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

1) Why is this place different from all other places?

Marc Pfeiffer, the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University and a former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services, said what is happening in Lakewood is unique.

“It is effectively a religious community bound together by religious and social traditions that basically started small and has exponentially grown and is now large enough and powerful enough to assume control of the political process,” he said.

The effect of that, he said, “has created circumstances that arguably our laws and rules did not contemplate.”

A flyer that put out by Lakewood’s Vaad prior to the recent primary election, telling members of the Orthodox community how to vote. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood  resident)

2) Can a religious community take over a town?

“There are lots of communities in New Jersey that you could call insular and who vote the same way. Newark is one that comes to mind,” noted Matthew Hale, who teaches political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University. “A Republican couldn’t get elected in Newark if he was standing on a corner handing out $1,000 bills. You could argue places up in Hunterdon and Warren counties are pretty insular with similar voting patterns also.”

The Orthodox community in Lakewood votes as a block and represents more than 50 percent of the population. It effectively controls the votes to hold sway over the township council and school board.

“The fact is, New Jersey is a machine politics state,” said Hale. “Little machines control votes and voting lines all over the state.”

Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany in 2013, protesting about the decade-long control of the East Ramapo public schools by the Orthodox community, which do not use the public schools but made deep cuts in teachers and programs. (Shannon DeCelle | AP file photo)

3) Have the issues in Lakewood played out anywhere else?

The East Ramapo Central School District in New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan, has gone through a similar transformation.

There, the Orthodox turn out to vote in strong numbers to defeat school budgets that could increase taxes, while electing members of the Orthodox community to the board. Parents of children in the public schools have accused the school board of making cuts in classroom education and extracurricular activities, to divert public resources to private Orthodox schools.

As in Lakewood, Ramapo residents opposed to the Orthodox control complain about the forces propelling what was a quiet New York suburb into a one of high-density living.

The fight in East Ramapo was documented on This American Life, the public radio show, which described a “volatile local political battle” that erupted after Hasidic residents, who have to pay local property taxes like everyone else—even if their kids did not attend the local schools— took control of the school board.

Elsewhere, there is similar anger over the influx of Orthodox families into parts of Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, Bloomingburg in New York, and a group of Hasidic families moving into an African-American neighborhood in Jersey City.

Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, left, sitting alongside Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

4) What are the politics of Lakewood?

Lakewood swings Republican. Trump won with 74 percent of the vote. Christie won with 84 percent. The town is run by a five-member committee serving three year terms. Three are Orthodox Jews. There are three Republicans and two Democrats. All are white men.

But some believe the true power in town is the Vaad, a religious council of Orthodox men, headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, which serves as an unofficial advisory group to the community. They unofficially endorse candidates and push for town policies to benefit yeshivas, school owners and private developers.

Critics say Lakewood has outgrown the five-member town committee form of government, which appoints its own mayor and has at-large members. They say it needs a city government (like Newark and Jersey City), with a direct-elected mayor and wards, so one dominant ethnic group can’t dominate the government and smaller neighborhoods get representation.

Students get off the bus at the Yeshiva K’tana on 2nd St. in Lakewood. (David Gard | For NJ Advance Media)

5) What has been the impact of the Orthodox community on Lakewood?

The biggest hit has been on the school budgets. Under New Jersey law, communities are required to bus kids to private schools more than two miles away. But with 30,000 kids in private yeshivas in Lakewood, the costs of busing have grown out of control.

The state is giving $2.4 million a year to Lakewood until 2018 to solve the busing problem under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. In 2014, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee Lakewood’s school district and its budget deficit. But the cost of courtesy busing is keeping the district in the red, say critics.

Questions have also been raised about whether local construction and housing ordinances have been ignored to make room for Orthodox growth, in a town where the government is also controlled by the religious community. Lakewood has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years.

6) If others in the township are being affected, why doesn’t the state step in?

New Jersey law does give the state the ability to go into a district like Lakewood, and it has appointed a monitor who has oversight and ultimate say on how the money is spent.

“The problem in New Jersey is even when you have the monitor, the politics are intense,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for the education rights of public school children.

With a board that is controlled by a constituency that supports private education, he said Lakewood should not have control of busing and special education expenditures. At the same time, he complained that the Christie administration has been “hands off” on Lakewood, even though the monitor is there.

“The monitor might exercise his authority, but he has to have the backing of the governor and legislature. There’s going to be political pushback,” he said.

The Lakewood Board of Education provides courtesy busing to private schools, but with 30,000 kids in those schools, costs have spiraled out of control. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

7) What, if anything, should the state do?

Sciarra said Lakewood needs to stop diverting funds to pay for an extraordinary number of children using private school transportation.

“The monitor should stop the subsidization of transportation out of the schools’ budget because it’s diverting funds out of public education,” he said.

If the state wants to subsidize private transportation, then the state should provide state funds, Sciarra suggested.

Michael Azzara, the fiscal monitor appointed by the state to oversee Lakewood’s finances, did not return calls to comment.

The next step, Sciarra said, depends on the political will of the next governor, noting that the state Supreme Court has made it clear over and over again that the state has the final say in insuring that children receive a “thorough and efficient” education.

“The state has the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be undermined by local school boards and the local political process,” he said. “In Trenton. That’s where the power lies.”

A new housing development off Broadway Ave. in the south part of the town. The town has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

8) How will Lakewood’s rapid development growth play out?

Pfeiffer said continued tensions among the communities, both within Lakewood and the surrounding municipalities, are likely.

“The outcomes of the current law enforcement investigations, school interventions, and land use concerns may contribute to new policies that respond to the pressures the yeshiva has introduced on the region,” he said. “Yeshiva leadership may feel it necessary, that despite its influence, to reconsider its growth plans as public resistance to continued growth may come at too great a disruption to the region’s civic environment and risk to the institution’s reputation.”

That said, he said it seems clear that continued, unabated growth will create new challenges for the region that will continue to stress political, civic, economic, and cultural institutions and systems, “the outcomes of which cannot be predicted today.”

In the hallways of Beth Medrash Govoha. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

9) How does the Orthodox community see the future in Lakewood?

What brings so many Orthodox families to Lakewood is Beth Medrash Govoha, which opened with 15 students in 1943 and has grown into one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, in part because of its distinctive teaching style.

Rabbi Kotler, president of the yeshiva, sees parallels to the Orthodox presence in Lakewood and to Princeton University.

“We kind of watch what they do and how they do that. What has really changed for us here in Lakewood, unlike Princeton, is that so many of our alumni and their families are living in Lakewood and setting up their businesses here,” he said. “Lakewood kind of became a destination in and of its own way.”

(Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

10) Where is the next Lakewood?

While many see parallels of Lakewood in Rockland County’s East Ramapo, where many of the same issues have played out in recent years, the community in Lakewood is expanding beyond the town’s borders.

People in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick have complained about getting harassed by Orthodox real estate brokers who knock on their doors and encourage them to sell their houses because Haredi Jews are moving in. Several towns have “no-knock” ordinances because of it.

Further to the north in Mahwah, meanwhile, residents are fighting the installation of an “eruv.” A physical line that is often a line or thin piping along utility poles, an eruv symbolically extends the private domain of Orthodox households into public areas, allowing activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage.

Comments on a petition circulating on-line, some overtly anti-Semitic, suggest the opposition is not so much to the presence of the eruv, but that Mahwah would be transformed into another Orthodox-dominated community, such as nearby Monsey, N.Y.

Staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.

Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Read more about Lakewood

Race, religion and politics: Lakewood today

10 ways Lakewood is unlike anywhere else in NJ

Inside New Jersey’s most controversial town

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.

 

To continue reading the article in the Forward click here.

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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