May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Yeshivas’ Battle for Sovereignty Continues

It took eight years and numerous investigations by the New York City Department of Education to declare 18 yeshivas in noncompliance with substantially inadequate teaching of core curriculum of secular subjects such as math, English, science and social studies.

Of the 18 yeshivot, the New York State Department of Education is expected to review the findings for 14 yeshivot in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Boro Park, which the department allegedly found deficient in providing an adequate secular syllabus and will make a final determination. There are four other yeshivot where school officials are expected to work with city education officials to turn around the perceived deficiencies over the next two years by implementing remediation plans.

Not all elected officials are pleased with the results of the report.

“If the NYC DOE paid as much attention to public schools as they do to yeshivas then our public schools would be in good shape. Unfortunately, many of the public schools are not [in good shape], City Councilman Ari Kagan (R–Gravesend, Brooklyn) told The Jewish Link. “It’s really a biased investigation. It’s not the first time, by the way. For more than 10 years some groups’ primary agendas are to attack the yeshivas and to make it seem that they are terrible, they don’t provide secular education. They don’t provide math or English. As a community leader, I have visited many yeshivas and I can tell you it is not true.

“I believe it is all biased. I have known so many successful, talented people in New York who graduated from yeshivas and are proud of it. That’s not an interesting story for a newspaper and it’s not sexy enough so they attack yeshivas. It’s much easier [for a newspaper] to attack yeshivas, to say they are not teaching good. It’s not true that yeshivas do not provide secular education,” Kagan, a Russian Jew, concluded.

While Kagan is not a member of the City Council Education Committee, Lynn Schulman is. She would not get into the fray over the controversial report.

“Yes, I’m on the education committee but I’m not the chair,” Schulman (D–Forest Hills, Queens) told The Jewish Link. “I can only speak to the ones [yeshivas] in my district. They go above and beyond the requirements. I can’t speak to yeshivas that are in Brooklyn, to be honest with you. I can’t speak for the yeshivas in Brooklyn at all. This came up when I ran for the city council the first time in 2021, I did some research and the ones in my district have excellent reputations. I can’t speak to the ones that are not in my district.”

The head of the City Council Education Committee, Rita Joseph (D–Flatbush, Brooklyn) refused to comment on the matter. Another member of the Council’s Education Committee, Eric Dinowitz (D–Riverdale, The Bronx), said he was too busy to speak about this important issue. Dinowitz serves as chairman of the council’s six-member Jewish Caucus and chairman of the council’s Higher Education Committee.

Without any attribution provided, officials with the advocacy group, Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, PEARLS, anonymously issued a statement on the results of the study:

PEARLS rejects the attempt to measure the efficacy of yeshiva education by applying a skewed set of technical requirements. Utilizing a government checklist, devised and enforced by lawyers, may help explain the state of public education. It is designed to obscure rather than illuminate the beauty and success of yeshiva education.

The outcomes of yeshiva education are on display every day across New York: in the successful business and professional careers of tens of hundreds of thousands yeshiva graduates and in the law-abiding and loving families they are raising here.

Parents choose yeshiva education for their children because of the religious, moral and educational philosophy and approach of those who lead yeshivas.

They will continue to do so, regardless of how many government lawyers try to insist that yeshiva education is best measured by checklists they devise rather than the lives yeshiva graduates lead.

After The Jewish Link reached out to specific individuals at PEARLS no one provided the courtesy of a return phone call, text or email, except for the statement, which was distributed to all media outlets. The Jewish Link received the statement only when a spokesman, a former top communications staffer for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, returned a call and sent the release.

By Marc Gronich

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