There was a lot of hype centered around the New York Jewish community this week, beginning with Sunday, September 11th’s New York Times cover story above-the-fold investigative feature about failures of New York’s yeshiva system, which brimmed with commentary from those who have left their religious communities. The timing of the article’s release was clearly coordinated with the New York Regents’ subsequent unanimous decision to impose strictures on secular education testing, requiring all yeshivot in the state to face consequences if they do not prioritize secular studies over Talmud.
Regardless of whether this is the hundredth missive you’ve seen on this sensitive topic or the first, please understand that the bias presented by The New York Times affects all Jews negatively; let alone anyone who cares about religious education of any kind. While those in our Jewish day school community may be open to certain secular standards and generally do work consistently to meet state and federal education standards, the Chasidic community does not operate in the same fashion and has a different scale for measuring achievement and excellence. Surely there must be another, more nuanced way to satisfy and assist students within yeshivot to pursue secular academic or professional tracks, without placing all yeshivot under a microscope and forcing all limudei kodesh to the back burner. It is an undisputed fact that no school system is without flaw; yet to attack one group over literally dozens of other insular communities for seeking to educate their children without government intervention reeks of unchecked hate.
The New York Times has long been considered a bastion of anti-Israel and anti-religious bias. We strongly believe that all Jews, of any stripe, should be offended that the New York yeshiva system was called out in this manner. And the decision of the Regents should not be allowed to stand without objection; no government entity should create standards that render any community’s education goals inconsistent with its history.