What do you do when the schools won’t let you in?

In Columns by Hal PetersonLeave a Comment

Three years ago, 52 Jewish parents, former students and former teachers advised the NYC Education Department that many yeshivas were not providing, as required by state law, an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.

Three years later, City Education Department Chancellor Richard Carranza released a fourteen-page letter to state Education Department Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia stating their investigation was stymied with 15 of 30 schools not allowing access. He needs guidance to proceed.

We are dealing with a serious concern. Tradition trumps logic, at the expense of the young people involved. Anarchy and mobocracy are both evident, with pandering politicians, and ineffective (clueless) city and state agencies all involved. Let’s consider what needs to be addressed using both Commissioner Carranza letter and, a report issued by YAFFED  (Young Advocates for Fair Education) a Hasidic education reform, non-profit group.

“The average Hasidic boy (ages 7 to 12) learns only basic English, reading, writing, and arithmetic for 90 minutes a day, four days a week. Girls, who attend separate schools, learn on a broader basis during the second half of a school day. The language of instruction is primarily Yiddish, the same language spoken at home.  When a boy turns 13, he spends 12 hours a day learning only Judaic studies with the expectation of becoming a rabbi.”

“Hasidic young man leaves the yeshiva system completely unprepared to work in – or interact with – the world outside his community. They speak little English, have few marketable skills   earning income well below average New Yorker’s.”


  • the schools subject to scrutiny receive an estimated $120 million a year from the state funded, city run Child Care Block Grant Subsidy Program, nearly a quarter of the allocation of all funds to the entire city.
  • Hasidic communities in Brooklyn have a greater percentage of families receiving cash assistance, food stamps, public health care coverage, and Section 8 housing vouchers than other city counties.
  • The percentage of people in a heavily Hasidic district of Brooklyn utilizing public income support such as cash assistance (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid has increased dramatically in the last decade, and
  • Using data from the Avi Chai Foundation and the United Jewish Agency, by 2030 one-eight of the city’s schoolchildren, and up to one-third of Brooklyn’s will be Hasidic.

With authority continuously challenged it is unlikely the yeshivas subject to investigation will acquiesce to broader standards, at the expense of religious training. We can anticipate court challenges that might well affirm the independence they see necessary.  One option, allow funding for only the schools that comply. Prior columns: www.reformalbanynowregistry.com “Enforcement of the Law”, and the “Convergence of the Nanny and Secular State.”


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