Thousands of ill-educated yeshiva boys
YORK DAILY NEWS
February 7, 2016, 4:25 AM
Todd,, NY Daily News
They deserve better
Each year, approximately
32,000 boys in New York City are not being taught science, history
and geography among other subjects. If they’re lucky to be under the
age of 13, they get 90 minutes of English and math, taught by
untrained and unlicensed teachers.
Alarmingly, when these boys
turn 14, most of them spend 14 hours a day in school, from around
6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., yet learn no general subjects at all. An
estimated 17,500 additional boys attending schools in Rockland and
Orange Counties are subjected to the same.
That is because they are
attending ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas, private religious
schools where the primary focus is on Judaic studies, almost to the
exclusion of non-Judaic studies. (This problem is most prevalent
among boys. Girls aren’t expected to engage in intensive Torah
learning, so they are allowed to study secular studies for the
Data on the problem is
scarce due to a lack of oversight, but graduates from most Hasidic
institutions will corroborate that boys do not receive a substantial
general education and that their schedule looked much like the one
You might think that this is
their hard luck. That these boys are attending private schools, so
there is no way to intervene.
But that’s not the case. New
York State requires non-public schools to teach a variety of
subjects including English, math, science, history, geography, art
and more. The state has delegated the task of ensuring that
non-public schools are meeting requirements to its superintendents.
Yet for the past three
decades, neither the state nor the city has done anything to remedy
the problem and enforce standards in these yeshivas. On the
contrary, the government has been pouring millions of taxpayer
dollars into these very institutions with little to no oversight to
ensure that the funds are serving their intended purpose.
As a graduate of Belz, a
Hasidic yeshiva in Brooklyn, I can personally attest to the lack of
general education and to the way this handicaps Hasidic students
like myself. It was that experience that motivated me to found
Yaffed, an advocacy group dedicated to improving the system for the
next generation of children.
Soon after I formed the
organization in 2012, I met with various city and state officials to
alert them of the problem. Yet nothing was done. In the intervening
months and years, many media outlets have begun to focus on the
education shortfall, giving the DOE ample opportunities to learn
more. Neither the state nor the city took any action.
It wasn’t until I retained a
top attorney — and issued a letter signed by 52 former students and
parents of current students alleging that the yeshivas failed to
meet state standards — that the city’s Education Department heeded
our calls and announced that they would conduct an investigation.
Yet we are now six months
into the investigation and the DOE has little to show for it. I’m
often asked by concerned parents and citizens about the progress of
the probe. They want to know whether the yeshivas are cooperating,
what the DOE’s timeline is, who from the DOE is on top of it and
what the preliminary findings are. These are questions the DOE has
yet to answer.
I’ve met several times with
representatives from the DOE who've insisted that they take this
matter seriously. While I hope that that is true, in all the
meetings I've had with them I have not received anything more
concrete than those vague reassurances.
Just imagine if one child in
each of these 39 yeshivas had suffered from food poisoning, or if
the water in these yeshivas were found to be contaminated. We’d
expect a thorough examination by a qualified team of experts with
unlimited access to the schools in question. We’d expect to see the
government acting swiftly for the well-being of the children. And
we’d expect to see immediate changes as well as greater measures to
prevent this from happening again.
For some unknown reason,
perhaps due to fear of the voting bloc, that’s not happening here.
Meantime, millions of taxpayer dollars pour into the yeshivas while
the students don’t get an adequate education. Consequently, there is
skyrocketing poverty among graduates of these institutions, who are
forced to rely on government assistance just to get by.
We need a public outcry, and
we need to hold our Department of Education, our mayor and our
governor accountable for turning a blind eye. Most importantly, we
need to ensure that the children in these schools are swiftly
provided with the education they deserve.
the founder and executive director of Yaffed (Young Adocates for