Stop Smearing N.Y. Yeshivos: They Provide A Quality Education To Their Students

22

By Avi Schick

During my quarter-century practicing law, I have defended a broad range of clients and activities: the state’s anti-smoking laws from cigarette companies, the Working Families Party from an improperly appointed special prosecutor, and numerous insurers, banks, and developers.

None of my clients has been as misunderstood and negatively stereotyped as the Hasidic schools and community I now represent.

For the past three years, they have been forced to endure a relentless campaign against their schools and way of life. The onslaught was triggered by a letter complaining about the education at Brooklyn yeshivas by a group called Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) that was short on specifics but alleged that these schools did not teach in “English from English language textbooks,” and was followed by a public relations campaign meant to harden public opinion against an insular community with a unique culture.

Last week, the city’s Department of Education sent a letter to the state Education Department that was meant to summarize its findings.

Read fairly, the DOE letter confirms that the allegations against the yeshivas are false, and that yeshiva students receive an enriching education in a quality learning environment.

The letter also discussed a unified effort that created a “new, more rigorous secular studies curriculum” that has been widely adopted in Hasidic schools. This curriculum is embodied in textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin and Sadlier Oxford, and has been accompanied by professional development and teacher training to ensure effective implementation.

The DOE has already visited 15 of the 23 elementary schools listed in YAFFED’s complaint, educating more than 13,000 students, and observed serious teaching and learning in each of those schools. The remaining elementary schools, which enroll about 3,000 students, will be visited this fall.

There was one false note in the DOE letter, which was the suggestion that it was denied access to the remaining schools. As the lawyer for all the schools — those visited to date and those to be visited in the coming months — I can state unequivocally that access was not and will not be denied.

For years, news reports cited that YAFFED’s complaint listed 39 yeshivas; the DOE letter reveals that there are only 29. YAFFED alleged that its signatories were current or former parents, students or teachers at all the yeshivas they listed; the DOE letter reveals that they had information about only 11 of the schools. Several of the “schools” listed do not even exist.

These may seem like trivial details, but they remind us how easily misinformation can be mistaken for truth when those being targeted are unpopular.

There is also a misconception that yeshivas are government funded. They are not. Qualifying students receive taxpayer-funded transportation, textbooks and lunches, but yeshivas do not receive financial support for teachers, educational activities, buildings or maintenance.

Ironically — or hypocritically — those who most loudly demand government intervention in yeshiva curriculum are also the quickest to oppose any state aid to yeshivas as an impermissible and excessive entanglement between church and state.

The U.S. Supreme Court has guaranteed “the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” and New York’s highest court has affirmed their constitutional right to choose private schools for their children.

Hasidic parents care about their children, and Hasidic schools care for their students. They respect the DOE and will continue to work with them in the spirit of collaboration that has long characterized their relationship. All they ask is that their rights be respected as well.

Schick is a partner at Troutman Sanders and a former New York State deputy attorney general. This article was first published in the NY Daily News and is published here with permission of the author.

{Matzav.com}

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Avi for standing up to those arrogant and ignorant self hating Jews trying to give our community a very unfair and unsubstantiated negative black eye. We are proud of our accomplishments and do a wonderful job in our private schools. It’s about time someone stood up for us.

  2. Sorry, but this article is totally misleading.
    The quality of education in the NYC yeshivas varies tremendously; Some give an excellent education and some, mainly some of the chassidshe, give next to nothing. These yeshivas that give almost no education will, when warned of a coming inspection, put on an act for the benefit of the inspectors.

    • S Moshe you’re don’t know what you are talking about. I’m a tutor in several chasidishe schools. They use the same workbooks for math and spelling as the Public schools use. For reading and writing, there are several companies that have excellent material which are used in our yeshivos. The problem is that yiddish is their first language and the kids don’t understand what they are reading. Moster’s screaming won’t change this.

      • S. Moishe’s remarks seem correct to me.

        There is a wide spectrum among Hasidic groups, in terms of this matter, and with regard to other matters.

        Just because someone is a tutor in a few Hasidic schools doesn’t mean that he knows all of them. Some Hasidic sects, such as Bobov, Stolin, and Ger, have better secular education, while others are far behind.

        • stolin is from lita aka litvishe chasidus so they would be less insular that would be like listing any chasidus from lita and ignoring the historical difference between the borders. bobav is galiztaine. and ger is poilish. these would have been historically less insular. as opposed to a hungarian chassidus. what’s your opinion on satmer seculer education?

  3. If the schools are so bad why do most of the schools turn out eventually top Torah scholars, top book writers, science majors, mathematicians, etc. etc. There must be something these schools are doing to encourage students to advance to major subjects. Too bad the regular school system, that the state runs, doesn’t turn out major scholars, or are few and far between and maybe private schools are the best way to go if you want to succeed in this atmosphere.

  4. They’re jealous that Yeshivos don’t have have violence and corruption that non-Jewish school have to deal with, so they find other problems.

  5. the original complaints were probably from former students who left the yeshiva student where they were not doing well to begin with and now they are blaming all their misfortunes on the education they rejected. when i went to college, that’s when i began to appreciate the quality of the education i had received. the top students were always those who spent all day in the bais medrash and went to college only at night. their grade averages were noticeably higher than those of the day students who spent all day in college. the yeshiva students knew how to study, how to reason, how to remember, how to think. yeshiva students are still learning how to do all that

  6. untill the yeshivas coordinate to stop jewish blood in the streets. they deserve no government aid!
    a students jewish education shouldn’t rely on connections and behind the door machinations!

    • Good point. Let’s punish the entire Yeshiva system for the very small minority that falls thru the cracks. Brilliant.

      • why should a institution that doesnt accept students take money? a public school doesnt discriminate! a public school would accept those who fall through the cracks!

  7. Thank you Avi Schick for succeeding in your endeavor. May you see much nachas from your family.
    כתיבה וחתימה טובה

  8. In any other frum website, this article would generate hundreds of comments screaming how bad the secular studies departments are and how much poverty this brings to the frum world. But because Matzav.com censors their comments, there will only be comments agreeing with this article. Because of such censoring, you are ensuring that the system does not change. The heavy economic burden for so many will continue.

    Dear Censor, how do you sleep at night?!?

  9. Those of you who are screaming for tuition help. Stop electing liberal democrats who oppose vouchers. All the machers the first time around supported Hillarey. All of them. It was only the hard working people who voted Trump despite all the leadership supporting Hillarey. Other than a handful of litvisha rosh yeshivas all the others basicly endorsed hillarey. Democrats believe in separation of church and state and will not fund yeshivas. If that machshefa Hillarey would of been elected all the yeshivas would have to teach evolution and alternate life styles or face no lunches or bus service. You are dealing with an extreme dangerous left wing party just as Jews are now suffering in parts of Europe. Elect Republicans down the line. Trump 2020

  10. How does a great curriculum, teachers and books help if all in a language foreign to students? Drop me into the most elite school in France and I won’t learn a word bc I don’t speak French. Don’t the students first need to be taught English comprehension?

  11. Who are you kidding!!! In Flatbush most of them do, Boro Park (especially the chasidsh ones) not so much, and Williamsberg all most none. For every Chaim Berlin and Torah Vaddath there are 2 United Talmudical Academies. I went to college for accounting with some chasidish guys they told me how hard it was to catch up to even made it in mechon leparnusa. I heard that some of the frum programs (PCS, Mechon leParnasah) have entrance exams to make sure the applicant has a baseline knowledge to start their program. And yes there were people that were successful without a high school degree, it is like saying some black people made it super rich without going to college, so it should not be important, not every one can be Lebron James. Do we really think it is better for the average chasidish guy to be a truck driver hanging out with the type of goy that does deliveries, or for that same chasidish guy to work in an office.

  12. How about we save ourselves this headache and drop secular studies entirely, like what goes on in Lakewood, and Eretz Yisrael.
    This is what Rav Aharon Kotler wanted.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here