New York – AP Report: NYC To Probe Secular Education At Orthodox Jewish Schools

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    FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2013 file photo, children and adults cross a street in front of a school bus in Borough Park, a neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York that is home to many ultra-Orthodox Jewish families. Critics have charged for years that the rudimentary level of secular education at private yeshiva schools serving New York's Hasidic communities are deficient in teaching science, geography and math to grade school students. Now, for the first time, the city Department of Education is investigating more than three dozen of the schools to make sure their instruction is up to the most basic standards. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)New York – There was no science, no geography and no math past multiplication at the ultra-Orthodox Jewish school Chaim Weber attended. And the only reason he ever heard of the American Revolution was when a seventh-grade teacher introduced it as “story time.”

    Naftuli Moster said he never learned the words “cell” or “molecule” at the ultra-Orthodox schools he attended, where secular subjects were considered “unimportant or downright going against Judaism.”

    Now young adults, the two yeshiva graduates echo complaints critics have made for years about the rudimentary level of secular education at private schools serving New York’s Hasidic communities. Now, for the first time, the city Department of Education is investigating more than three dozen of the schools to make sure their instruction is up to the most basic standards.

    But even the advocates who called for the investigation question whether the city will be able to pierce the close-knit, insular Orthodox community to force meaningful change.

    “These schools have been operating for a very long time,” said Weber, one of 52 former students, parents or former teachers who signed a letter requesting the investigation into 39 yeshivas. “They have kind of perfected their method for pulling the wool over the eyes of authorities.”

    The investigation itself is shrouded in secrecy. The names of the specific yeshivas that are being targeted have not been released because of fears of retaliation. And aside from Weber and Moster, who agreed to speak out, the names of those who called for the probe have also not been publicly released.

    “I’m worried for my kids. They could be kicked out if I named the school,” said Weber, who said his 10-year-old son has learned simple addition but not subtraction.

    What is known is that 38 of the 39 yeshivas are in Brooklyn, the center of the city’s Hasidic community.

    State law mandates that the instruction in private schools must be at least substantially equivalent to what can be found in the area’s public schools, and the local district, in this case New York City, is given the oversight power.

    Calls to several Brooklyn yeshivas and messages to community representatives were not returned. Members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community closely adhere to tradition and tend to limit contact with outsiders.
    Naftuli Moster poses for a picture in the borough of Queens, New York, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Moster said he never learned the words "cell" or "molecule" at the ultra-Orthodox schools he attended, where secular subjects were considered "unimportant or downright going against Judaism." For the first time, the New York city Department of Education is investigating more than three dozen of the schools to make sure their instruction is up to the most basic standards. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    The push for secular education at the yeshivas has been spearheaded by an organization called Young Advocates for a Fair Education. Moster, its executive director, grew up in a Hasidic family with 17 kids and became an advocate for education after he enrolled at the College of Staten Island and saw how far behind he was.

    “If we were to compare these schools to some of the worst performing schools in America these would be worse,” Moster said. “We’re talking about a school that simply doesn’t teach the basics.”

    Yiddish is the first language in many of New York City’s ultra-Orthodox homes and the language of instruction in their yeshivas.

    Boys at the yeshivas receive just six hours a week of instruction in English, math and other secular subjects up to age 13, according to the letter to city and New York state officials requesting an investigation. Secular education stops at age 13 as boys devote themselves full time to Jewish religious texts. Girls get more secular schooling because they don’t study the Talmud.

    City Department of Education spokesman Harry Hartfield said last week that the department was finalizing requests that would be sent to the yeshivas for lesson plans and other materials.

    He said that if a district superintendent determines that a yeshiva is not providing substantially equivalent instruction, the superintendent will work with the school to develop a plan to fix deficiencies.

    Moster said that approach won’t uncover the truth. “These yeshivas are very good at producing whatever kind of proof you need,” he said.

    Advocates also fear that the city will be slow to act because some elected officials rely on ultra-Orthodox voting blocs.

    “They have political clout,” Weber said. “I’m not very optimistic that this will change a lot but you’ve got to try.”

    The attorney for Moster’s group, former New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Norman Siegel, said he will file a lawsuit if the investigation does not yield meaningful results.

    For ultra-Orthodox families, the cultural pressure to send their children to yeshivas, where tuition costs upward of $4,000 to $5,000 a year, is intense.

    “A public school would be so unthinkable,” Moster said. “It doesn’t even cross anybody’s mind.”

    But critics of the yeshiva system say the shoddy education dooms tens of thousands of New Yorkers to poverty.

    A 2011 study by the UJA-Federation of New York found that 45 percent of Hasidic households in the New York metro region were in poverty. Among households of six or more people the figure was 64 percent.

    The report said most of the households have at least one person working but “they are seriously constrained by low levels of secular education.”

    Weber said he overcame his yeshiva education by hiring private tutors. He eventually went on to college and now works for a real estate firm.

    “Eventually I did catch up,” he said. “But it was very hard.”

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    65 COMMENTS

    1. What really needs to happen is the administrators of all these schools need to go to jail. They take government money earmarked for these secular curriculums, and instead they line their pockets, pay their cleaning ladies and buy sets of shas for the students. I dont think there is a single honest school administrator in all of boro park.

    2. This moser and weber will never be successful people where our kids that dont learn what a cell is will be successful like we have seen the last 50 years u dont need to know english to be successful

      • So when they show that the poorest people in NY are living in the predominantly Jewish communities, they are lying? 90+% aren’t really on some kind of social assistance? Or they are on social assistance but are making money off the books to steal from the government? Which is it? The state roles do not lie. Just because you know one or two successful people doesn’t make it the rule. Bill Gates was a college dropout. Go look and see how many other successful CEO’s dropped out of college… You speak nonsense and want to damn our children to a life of begging and thievery.

    3. Let the BOE fix their own problems I must’ve interviewed 75 different applicants that came to my factory from the PS system looking for a job. I always ask them if they know math. Of course they answer. I ask them how much is 12×12? Not one has answered 144. Talk about a problem

    4. I don’t understand. No one ever complained. Comes in these two men and make a whole issue. And if someone is interested in learning more he can do so voluntary.

      • The taxpayers that are forced to take from their children’s mouths to pay for your ignorant children who can’t support themselves are complaining. All of us are complaining. The government rips money out of my hand to give it to your stupid, lazy, ignorant children who can’t get a decent job.

        I believe it should be voluntary to learn secular subjects, if and only if, you are willing to sign a waiver to NEVER receive ANY taxpayer-funded social assistance.

    5. I feel very sorry for mr. Mostar that he missed out on a good education.
      But if he would ask the other 20 or so kids that went to school with him they would say we are all doing very well with the education we got

      • Mr. Moster is 100% correct.

        The “other 20 or so kids” are probably poor or professional Schnorrers today unless they came from Askanim and/or otherwise wealthy families.

        You have to know what’s going on outside of your daled amos. You can do it, as I have, without getting involved in the outside world shmutz.

    6. So Moster is working in real estate. I bet with his nebech’diga Yeshiva education he doesn’t realize that he never needed to waste four years in college to enter real estate. Does he need to know what a “cell” is to flip a deal? Just askin’

      • No. He doesn’t need to know anything to flip a house but he does need to know how to do it legally so that he doesn’t end up in prison with all the other uneducated wise guys who thought they knew it all.

        • Nobody flips a house without a lawyer, and they don’t teach law in high school either. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. Who lands in prison for flipping a house without knowing that he’s doing something wrong?

    7. With all due respect you could have done after you finished your yeshiva learning. looks like they are looking for a quick buck by suing the yeshiva which gave them the best

      I too went to a Chasidisha school becauses thats what my parents zt’l felt was right for me I now hold A BS and am employed by major institution,

      If you want you can. When there is a will there is always a way..

      • I know what a cell is, and a molecule as well as a lot of other science and math etc. (and Shakespeare, French etc.) and I have never used this knowledge to make a parnoso. I am not saying the Yeshivas should or should not be teaching these secular subjects, but, I am saying your parnoso does not depend on this knowledge. it comes from Hashem.

        • And if you did not use it for your parnoso it was not worth learning? How about to sound like an intelligent human being when talking to a non rabbi. Reading some of these comments makes me wonder if we have all gone mad. The fact that some people have been able to make parnoso knowing nothing -proves absolutely nothing. IMHO for every 1 that makes it – 10 other fail. And even if you become a millionaire – think how ridiculous you appear when talking to intelligent knowledgeable people. We are not necessarily talking college here- we are talking biology, geometry for heaven sake.

        • 1. There are many who believe that we are all born with the POTENTIAL that H” gives us to make the parnoso we are meant to have. Someone who flushes his money down the toilet won’t miraculously make more.

          If you make a good living, I’m guessing you use more than you think. I bet that you did a lot of reading which taught you how to write well, how to express yourself well, and how to present your ideas in clear and creative ways.

          As for science, we all use it every day. We learned about the Scientific Method for problem solving and then would solve problems through experiments and other challenges.

          You may never be asked for the hypotenuse of a triangle in your job, but I’d bet you use more than you think.

    8. The administrators will only go to jail if they misused government funds. The government only Lends Textbooks for secular studies. Since the claim is the students were not taught secular studies it is doubtful that the school applied for textbooks that it wouldn’t use.

      “For ultra-Orthodox families, the cultural pressure to send their children to yeshivas, where tuition costs upward of $4,000 to $5,000 a year, is intense.”

      That comes out to a little less than $350.00 – a little more than $400.00 a month. never paid so little,I was paying over $850 per month for 12 months for my youngest. It cost three to six times as much to educate in public school.

      What is happening is these guys are going off the derech and now they want to blame the yeshivas for their problem. They have to take remedial courses if they want to go to college, which is no different then the public school kids. They may also need to get a GED because they dropped out of school, but that also is very easy if they apply themselves.

      • really, maybe falsifying high school transcripts stating that certain classes where given when they where not might be a crime. I know this since I saw my high school, transcript and noticed many classes I never took and the teshiva never offered .

        And I am sure there are some funding for courses or students from the government that the yeshivas really never used for that purpose. Like when I was in yeshiva and the yeshiva received funding for handicap children, and or special programs. Of course none existed and some went to jail.

    9. A 2011 study by the UJA-Federation of New York found that 45 percent of Hasidic households in the New York metro region were in poverty. Among households of six or more people the figure was 64 percent.

      This numbers seem to prove the point, that people are not getting a good enough education to get high paying jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Please do not mention BH or some others those are outliers

      Or maybe many are correct, you do not need a good education and many people are really doing very well, but the community is committing fraud in a massive scale.

      which is it

      • There’s more to poverty than having educational background. There is also the discrimination people face for looking chassidish, and face it, this exists. There is also the culture clash that prevents people from hiring. I’m a frum woman with a great educational background and a mixture of corporate and Jewish (orthodox) on my resume. I can’t prove it but I’d guess that the obviously Jewish component is sometimes a barrier. And, yes, we are (working) poor, and it’s alarming. I didn’t grow up this way.

    10. all the yeshivas I know teach math and grammar. if they guy did not know how much 12×12 is he was an idiot or had no interest in school. he probably would have been a failure in secular school as well.
      these guys are unhappy human beings and looking to blame someone for their misery.

    11. Mr. Moster is correct when he says that the yeshivas do not provide a proper education. I have many people that I advise and they ask me what is required to get to college. When I say they need ti start with GED or a high school diploma, they just give up. And, yes, many do struggle, work hard and go for the degree. But trust me they work much harder than the boys that went to yeshivas that offered a full english program.
      That being said, I believe Mr Moster has an agenda. And it is not to fix the system. I don’t know what it is but Iam almost sure that fir ppersonal gain.

    12. isn’t it funny that the public schools ”teach” math and spelling etc for many hours a week yet they probably have about the same percentage of people that can read or do math.

    13. The truth of the matter is that education today is becoming more competitive especially to get into low cost colleges. Not just middle and upper middle class. The increase in foreigners from India and Asia are driving this as well. Good paying Jobs will only be more difficult for the uneducated to.get in the future. These Yeshiva kids are going to be handicapped educationally which is unfortunate.and poverty will only grow in the community. Not everybody can overcome these hurdles by just doing it on their own. Too much to ask in the reality of today’s competitive economy.

    14. While some of the posts here prove the lack of secular education in many Yeshivos, public schools are hardly in a position to judge. We see the results of what they produce, with kids not knowing basic english or math. Their test scores overall are abysmal.

    15. Reading the 31 posts posted Its obvious that most of these posters are only regurgitating what this evil moser is saying and have no idea how a chasidishe yeshiva runs. I have been a teacher in chasidishe yeshivos for over 20 years I will be the first to admit that there can be improvements. First however we must see where the problem is. If you read the letter this guy wrote his focus is mainly on curriculum. This is where he is wrong and one reason he will fail. The problem isn’t curriculum per se It is that the children can’t talk English. This is a home issue not a school issue no court order can change chasidishe attitudes about the English language. Second reason he will fail is the chasidisher yeshivas will look at this like the mitzitza b’peh issue.They will never let an outside body tell them how to run their school. They will fight it to the bitter end.

        • You totally missed my point. Yes, as I wrote curriculum can and has to be updated. Maybe I could agree to you that english teachers should be able to communicate like a Harvard graduate. My point is that the children don’t speak English at home or to friends. Unlike children in a public school ESL program these kids (and parents) often don’t want to learn English.Even those that can read English have difficulty comprehending what they read. The main reason however is that from bar mitzvah until this boy will enter the work force a minimum of 7 years later (If he marries at 19 – 20) won’t talk a word of English. Do you think forcing yeshivos to change their curriculum will help? I don’t.

      • I was raised thinking that Jews valued education. Thanks to many of the above posters, I have now been disabused of this notion. No wonder so many Yidden have absolutely no interest in interacting with much of the frum world with its talking fish, aristocracy based on yichus and not on personal scholarship or merit, inability to support itself financially as a result of inadequate skills and/or work ethic, and profound ignorance of several thousand years of science, medicine, psychology, history, and geography. It is like trying to converse intelligently with cavemen. How profoundly embarrassing you are.

    16. These two punks who are losers have an axe to grind. What do they teach in public school? Evolution, same sex studies beginning in first grade and distorted history. Yeshivas teach Creationism,normal family values and deep mind building Talmudic studies. Yes there are poor and rich religious Jews but compare them to the public school graduated and see how many blacks and whites are struggling today financially. What about investigating all black neighborhood public schools as the prisons are full of blacks and Latinos. The public schools are a danger zone of drugs and guns. Our reaction to this type of anti Semitic witch hunt is to register to vote. If every one of a quarter of a million unregistered religious Jews would vote, we could get real funding and no politician would mess with us. Register to vote and we can accomplish so much more. Enough with these atheistic liberal politicians always trying to destroy authentic Judaism. A far as college making one into a financial success is baloney. Half of the forbes 400 richest people are drop outs. Making money is from Above. Fact is there are so many college educated people looking for jobs. Becoming wealthy is not from a job. It’s being creative and taking chances. I myself never went to high school and have a yearly income of almost three million dollars. I hire college educated individuals to run my business while I spend my time davening at a relaxed pace and studying Torah. I also shep nachas seeing my kids excel in kollel. I am not interested in them being open minded buffoons who have no thinking abilities. The only normal society left in America are the Torah observant jews. Make no mistake about it. The rest have plunged into darkness like sodom.

      • 1) you and many other posters comparison to public school kids is way off. We all know that most public school children live in an unstable social envoirnment that impeeds their success. Generally our children live amoungst strong and stable families that encourge our success. You can’t match up our kids verse public school wthout taking into account the sociological barriers. At the end of the day a secular education mixed with a stable enviornment breeds success.
        2)Of course you can make it rich without anys ecular education. But most of us are not the entrepreneur type. We don’t have the know how or the guts to open our own businesses. Nor are we good sales men that can just flip houses or sell insurance. Many need that stable 9-6 accounting job where we get a paycheck every two weeks. For that crowd (which is the majorty) you must have a secuar education. And even for rich guys like you, you would be even more succesful if you had a secular education. Yes you hired college guys to run your business. So you hired a hiemisha accountant. But thats the point. He can’t open his own business. He needs to be hired by you. And you only hired him because you need collge guys.

      • Many have brought up the notion of what does math and & science do for me?
        Well firstly leaving aside the fact that any professional needs to know high school math. Nurses, accountants IT personnel,people who sell on amazon etc.. all need to know algebra. Yes you can be an entrepreneur without that knowledge but we are not all cut out for that. Secondly, the yeshivas probably should adjust the education towards todays needs. Skills such as tech skills should be epmhasized more. It may not be part of the common core but its vital for todays society. Even rabbiem use computers. Children should walk out of high school fluent in micrsoft office programs ( Including excel which is very useful). There is no reason that we have to wake up first while w eare in the job market to learn basic tech skills.

      • Here is what many of you guya leave out.

        I’d like to know what are these 9th graders doing a whole day when not obtaining a secular education? Are they really cut out to learn a whole day? Most end up wasting away large chuncks of the day with very little value for time. many of todays system grow up batleniam. If they can’t learn all day why not teach them a little math or history?

      • Lest anyone invoke the volozhin myth here are the true facts,

        1) Volozhin did have a secular education. It was only when the government insist that it take over the majorty of the day when they choose to close down.

        2) There were lots of in house fighting.

    17. What we need is vouchers. The same check that the city cuts for all students – that we never get to use – should be handed over to the parents. Once we pay similar tuition costs we will get an excellent education. Why can’t we have a true choice in education. The money is being sent to public schools who use this money on others.

    18. What about the “Leadership Academies” that sprout up all over the Bronx/Manhattan and Brooklyn? The only thing the graduates of those fine institutions are capable of leading upon graduation is a cell block riot. While not saying there are not issues in *some* yeshivas, certainly those issues should be far down the quality investigation list.

    19. It all comes from the top. If the parents and Hanhala do not care about a proper English education, neither will children. There is a reason that most Yeshivas have high turnover rate for teachers teaching English. The children behave worse than animals, and treat the English subject teachers worse than garbage.

    20. You don’t need a college degree to get a blue collar job. Plumbers, electricians, appliance repairmen, excellent jobs … The type of services people always need.
      The problem is about offering vocational training after high school. Leave the yeshivos alone. Parents have the right to educate their children as they see fit. These young men have issues with their parents choices. Let them better sue their parents for not raising them the way they feel they should have been. Either that, or let them change it from the inside. Let them start their own school and see how many pupils they get.
      #35, spot on! Agree with you 100%!!!

      • Do you know how hard it is to obtain a plumbers license? Todays plumbers do need a secular education and they certainlly need a high school eduaction. Everything is computerized. With computers you need tech & math skills. The same is true for electricains.

    21. Attacking the public schools makes you feel good, but that’s not the issue. The heimeshe communities are caught between wanting to stay in the 1600’s and living (and making $) in the contemporary world. The yeshivot that offer a solid secular education
      should become the model for all, unless we want to fall further into shetl poverty and ignorance.

      • Not when freedom of religon posses threats to a child. I think we all agree that nut jobs like Helbrans must be stopped as he endangerous chidren.
        And not when the government provides funds for this freedom of religon either.

    22. Whether we on this comment board believe or don’t believe in secular education seems to be beyond the scope of this conversation. The question of what is the legal responsibility of a school toward its students is what this particular probe is all about. This is not a simple matter especially if you remove this argument from being leveled at just Yeshivot. There are various schools and home schools that rely on alternative methods of teaching with varying successes and failures at all levels. The bottom line is at what level is the state going to dictate what needs to be learned in school and are those schools meeting that criteria. Just as importantly, what level of freedom are parents allowed to raise their children as they see fit. When we talk public schools the idea is simply set by the boards and all those who utilize the system must make do but private schools have much more leeway in setting their curriculum.

    23. I also don’t believe in the government getting involved in mandating aspects of education. The government should stay out of private school business when it comes to religion. The problem is the perpetuation of poverty and welfare which the Yeshiva system proliferates which is why the government should at least be aware of the current situation and discuss with the community. This becomes a drain on America’s resources and as other people point out with their comments, there are plenty of Americans who take handouts. The government is not involved with the education oversight of the Amish. So is this just Antisemitism as other commentators indicate? I’d say no, I don’t know for sure but I’d venture to say the Amish don’t get a great secular education as they don’t have much secular studies beyond 8th grade. The Amish are known for their self sustenance, training their community to be self sufficient from farming to carpentry. The Amish take pride in their self sufficiency and refuse to take welfare, social security and unemployment benefits. Makes sense for the government to let these people be.

    24. one of last generation’s g’dolim (i dont want to sat his name because maybe i will attribute this to the wrong person) that making ‘ahsh un blutta’ from the secular studies and those teachers is REAL bitul torah!

      everyone knows that the education in the public schools in poor neighborhoods is abysmal. there can be no comparison between our children and others. our kids are being raised in two parent homes, being taught to respect all peoples person and property, to be kind and helpful etc. our children grow up to be contributing members of society. our kids have a bounty of intelligence.

      that being said, there is something wrong when a man born in this country cannot fill ,out an application, cannot read a manual, cannot have an intelligent conversation on the phone with a doctor, a service provider, etc., cannot comprehend an instruction booklet about a common appliance. if our system of education is falling short, we are doing ourselves an injustice, we are failing our children. we are able to give an adequate education in the 2 hours allotted to secular studies if we use the time wisely and dont turn it into a joke

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