Queens, NY – A Queens councilman, himself the product of a private school, called out critics of the yeshiva system, saying that attacks on religious schools are unfounded and could have widespread effects that could be devastating to faith-based communities throughout New York State.
Councilman Eric Ulrich made his case in an op-ed that appeared in today’s Gotham Gazette. Having attended public school before transitioning to the Catholic school system, Ulrich said that he was grateful to have received a religious education that was reflective of his family’s values, which ultimately inspired him to a career in public service.
Efforts by a small group of disgruntled yeshiva graduates to undermine the system could violate the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion and potentially deny parents of every faith the ability to send their children to religious schools, noted Ulrich.
The councilman also called into question the motives of anti-yeshiva activists, remarking that they “continuously attack the Orthodox Jewish community under the guise of educational quality.”
“Tens of thousands of parents choose these schools each year because yeshivas have served them, and their families, well for generations,” said Ulrich.
In an email sent to VIN News, Ulrich described allegations that yeshiva students are receiving a substandard secular education as “egregious and absurd.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on courses at yeshiva schools, and it is clear to me they take secular education seriously,” Ulrich, who has personally visited Orthodox and Chasidic yeshivas in both Brooklyn and Queens, told VIN News. “I was genuinely impressed with the teachers, who are dedicated to giving their students the best education possible.”
The New York State Education Department is currently debating whether yeshivas are meeting the mandated requirement to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that offered in public schools, a distinction that Ulrich described as “enormously subjective.” He called upon officials to withstand the pressures of anti-yeshiva activists, saying that the ramifications of their decision could be far reaching.
“If we do not stand up for yeshivas today, the future of other private schools may be next,” observed Ulrich.
Rabbi Avi Greenstein, a member of the executive committee of Parents for Educational And Religious Liberty in Schools which advocates for yeshivas, said that he was appreciative of Ulrich’s support.
“Over the past few years, yeshivas have come under attack by a small group of critics who question our way of life,” said Rabbi Greenstein. “We’re very proud of the education our students receive and it is gratifying that public officials like Eric Ulrich are courageous enough to stand up for religious freedom and parental choice.”