Brooklyn, NY – Councilman Chaim Deutsch OpEd: Yeshivas Must Remain Independent

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    New York – The quality of secular studies offered by New York’s yeshivas and day schools has come under relentless and unfair attack during the last few years – and now new guidelines for private schools issued by the State Education Department are creating unprecedented confusion and concern on the part of educators, parents, and community leaders.

    In late November, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia took the unprecedented step of issuing new, onerous guidelines that require a significant number of secular courses to be taught, give the school district control over teacher’s accreditation, and mandate inspections from public school officials. If not abided by, the guidelines threaten the loss of student-based funding, school transportation, and even eventual closure.

    While we can all agree that every child deserves a sound basic education, these new guidelines step far beyond that. They are intrusive, and subvert a private school’s right to control their own curriculum and the culture in their schools.

    In the Jewish community, parents take on the often hefty burden of paying yeshiva tuition because we want to ensure that we have some semblance of control over the environment in which our children are spending most of their days. We do our due diligence in ensuring that our children are receiving a good education that will prepare them for a successful future. Most importantly, it is our absolute right as parents to choose where we send our children for school.

    These new guidelines are not just affecting yeshivas and Jewish day schools. Muslim and Catholic leaders have also joined in condemning them, with the New York State Catholic Conference going so far as to direct all of the state’s Catholic schools to not participate in “any review carried out by local public school officials.”

    The New York Court of Appeals determined in 1948 that “private schools have a constitutional right to exist, and parents have a constitutional right to send their children to such schools.” Depriving such schools of the right to shape their curricula in line with their religious and cultural values would essentially remove the “private” in “private schools”.

    It is the tradition of the Jewish people, since the days when Yaakov Avinu sent his son Yehuda ahead to Egypt to establish a yeshiva, that we educate our children according to our teachings as a method of securing our nation’s endurance. Maintaining the independence of our schools is absolutely critical, and allowing the State to overstep their bounds and infringe upon our religious institutions sets a dangerous precedent.

    Today, they want to control what we teach in our yeshivas. If we don’t fight back, what will tomorrow bring?

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    44 COMMENTS

      • It’s not about insisting on basic education. After reading the guidelines, it becomes clear that this is another knee-jerk reaction to poor standardized testing scores and the even poorer performance on Regents exams. The real solution would be for New York State to get in line with the other states and abolish Regents, then New York State could stop teaching to the tests and instruct. The next step is to dump the college and university consultants who can’t sell their books unless NYS changes its curriculum. The next step after that is to do teshuva, acknowledge we’ve screwed up in secular education, create our own plan that will make secular education less babysitting and more education, then monitor and report.

      • My son did just fine with his yeshiva and bais medrash education. He learned how to write well and speak well. He managed to graduate magna cum laude. All this with his yeshiva education.

        • Nice to hear about your son but this isn’t about him.
          Many chareidi yeshiva graduates can’t write a sentence or speak proper English so unless someone supports them or they become rabbis they are at risk of becoming welfare cases.

          • So they can’t! That’s actually a good thing. Meforshim say that the term “lo sheenu es lishonum” when talking about the Jews in Egypt means speaking a foreign language with intentional mistakes. Every Jew in Egypt knew how to speak Egyptian . And I bet that I who went to Satmar for three years, speak better English than you do!

      • One issue is the mandated hours. They are requiring more hours of secular education than is provided in NYC public schools. Originally the State only required a substantially equivalent education.

      • You are a Muslim moron. I am a product of the yeshiva system. I also have advanced degrees from major universities. My children also attended yeshivos. Several have gone to mainstream colleges, and all can write and speak English quite well.

        The intrusiveness of the Commissioner Elia is abusive, irresponsible, and probably unconstitutional. The demands she makes on yeshivos not only undermine the right to provide education as a yeshiva, but they are beyond what is provided and required in the public school system. Had her motive been honest, it would have been to require minimum passing scores on a standardized test. The goal is the proficiency, not the hours devoted to which studies.

        Bottom line is that Elia created a “gezairoh”, an abusive decree. I hope there is ample energy applied to overturn this gezairoh by legislation and by litigation. I hope Elia gets fired – like she was elsewhere before coming to Albany.

        • “You are a Muslim…” Muslims were good to us for century’s. For 8 years we had a Muslim POTUS (Obama). He was a good family man, well respected even by republicans and most important we Jews were safe in the USA. Not any more.

          • It doesn’t seem like you democrates are good to the Jews . Think about it . This is happening in a democrates loving state like ny with sanctuary cities like NYC . The same sanctuary city that chepered with bris Mila.
            The same progressive forcing stores to allow lesbian actors to perform .

            This is your lovely dem state

            • Dean skelos and the Republican senate had a chance in 11 and 12 to protect yeshivas from lgbt propaganda mandates now being used on us. He refused to bring the bill to the floor even though it passed the Democrat senate unanimously. (the assembly did it to save face after over reaching, when they put in the bill that is how threatening us. A bill mandating schools (no mention even of public schools only) teach lgbt propaganda)

      • Jewish kids know how to speak english and they get a job anytime as good as the PS kids with no fathers , mothers, drugs etc etc thousand times over. You pauline hashomer etc are the rishay yisroel from all the generation who bring spiritual havok on klall yisroel which in turn bring the midas hadin on klall yisreol EG: Chorben Europe 1939-1945. What pauline and co wants is shmad of yidishe kinder

    1. To be fair, this campaign has nothing to do with education. This is a group of ex orthodox people with an axe to grind on a mission to hurt and destroy everything from their past.

      It’s outrageous that they got the ear of the education department.

    2. The disingenuous nature of some comments here is startling.

      Anyone who has had children in most chareidishe yeshivas, and who him or herself has had a good secular education, knows fully well that most graduates receive no or a materially inadequate education in American history and basic legal structures, analytical writing, higher level math, etc…not to mention sciences.

      The girls in the “good” Brooklyn Beis Yaakovs don’t even get the text analysis skills the boys get from Shas.

      So twiddle your thumbs chaverim…the need for education reform is striking.

      • Look who stuck his nose in. You crept out of your cave yoni?? Ran out of fake names?

        Firstly most brookyln litfish schools have a great secular education. Anyone who takes regents stands up to the common core of whats expected in the state of NY. And they do it without 6 hours a day of secular studies. The overwhelming majorty pass regents. And regents are tough. If they want to mandate schools prepare students for regents then I’d somewhat agree. But 6 hours a day???

        To your greater point most frum jews aside for YU don’t value education. Education has nothing to do with our torah. Education is only vital in as much as it helps people integrate with society and earn a living. (some dispute that too and believe its all chazor trief.)

        In yeshivas like Torah Vodaath or Chaim berlin or Novominsk there is no need for reform. Its just fine.

        Furthermore, today its secular studies and tommorow you liberals will push for LGBT education. We can”t have goyim mixing into our mosdos.

        • Really? You honestly believe that any of the mainstream Brooklyn yeshivas have a half decent secular education? Maybe you should dig a bit deeper. Todays boys can’t spell to save themselves.
          They are not on grade level in basic math. Science and history are “stupid” subjects. Today’s boys laugh at secular studies. Listen to random boys in shul, you’ll be shocked.

          • True. A lot of us who where in Yeshiva in the 70’s-90’s had a different set of standards then what kids today have. When I was in Yeshiva, not showing up to Secular studies was not acceptable, nowadays, I understand a sizable group does not show up and no big deal is made about it.

          • which boys are you referring to? Boys from Novomisk C berlin or Torah Vodaath?

            The underlying question is, are the boys taking regents? If they pass regents than their education is up to par. Think about results not time taken to acheive those results. The issue is with boys who don’t take regents which are many and growing in size. I am ok with requiring everyone to take regents. But don’t think it should be based on class time.
            Boys will always be boys and mock their school work. I don’t add value to what they hock about in shul.

            And FYI spelling is a thing of the past.

        • Read the guidelines more carefully the lgbt is being pushed in these guidelines. Hidden in the civility requirement, check out this weeks(vayichi) Jewish press.

          This has nothing to do with hours that is just a blackmail technique,this is about lgbt” only!

      • Let me be clear I am against any govt mixing into our mosdos. But here is a question for the nay sayers against any secular edcuation

        And Its only an issue in chasdish and yeshvisha high schools.

        What are the boys doing instead of secular studies? Like they have no zits fliesh to learn anyhow? Why not teach them a little history , math and science? Again it has to come form the schools not the govt.

        • Having a masters in education, and currently teaching high school gen ed, I can assure you that higher maths such as algebra and calculas are taught solely for the brain skills, not because the math is actually practical for 95% of people. If a bachur is properly learning in mesivta then he will learn most of the same academic skills (not content) taught in public hs and will be able to easily catch up on any needed info when he is done the system.

          If a bachur is having issues learning in yeshiva then he will generally have the same learning issues in secular studies bc its very similar skills. (Unless the hebrew/aramaic is a language barrier) and he may as well be in the sviva of a yeshiva which has the proper hashkafos to life. AND he should be getting the same special ed support services he would get in ps.

          The bochrum in mesivta that arent learning AND getting into trouble should learn a trade in the afternoon. Theres nothing secular about learning a trade.

    3. No, Councilman Deutsch, that is not correct. You statement that “it is our absolute right as parents to choose where we send our children for school” isn’t legally correct. Yes, as parents we have the right to choose, but the law does demand an education baseline and parental choice only applies insofar as it adheres to that.

      The bigger issue is that the broad statements defending yeshiva education tend to be highly disingenuous. “New York’s yeshivas and day schools” are not a monolithic entity and encompass Day Schools that do indeed offer General Studies as well as Chassidish institutions that teach only in Yiddish and offer little to none General Studies. The numerous statements about our students doing better in standardized tests than do their public school peers is basically saying “leave Yeshivas that don’t offer General Studies alone as there are other schools that do offer indeed General Studies”. And because we’ve lumped all Yeshivas and Day Schools together, the swinging axe threatens them all.

    4. I went to yeshiva,I went on to graduate with a engineering degree, I worked for various insurance companies and the City of NY, never had an issue communicating with my co workers or getting my job done

    5. I am reading many posts referring to the posters children having done OK in life.
      The issue does not pertain to those that attended Yeshiva in the 60’s or even 90’s. It is the situation today which is the factor. Our children’s education is not the same as the previous generation’s. Many of us attended the 12th grade while in many cases, secular studies are skipped in the 12th grade.

    6. i have 8 children who graduated yeshiva,cheder,talmid torah
      # 1 is a mortgage broker and averages $275,000 a year
      # 2 is in special ed and makes 90,000
      # 3 is in construction and is b”h very successful
      # 4 is Insurance broker and does over $300,000 a year
      # 5 owns a business and making parnassah
      # 6 is running a major plant and averages $2500 a week
      # 7 is 1/2 day in kolel and the other half dealing real estate
      # 8 is working in a office as secretary and waiting for her basherte.
      My next door neighbor which is a Goy has 4 kids
      # 1 works for Sanitation
      # 2 is in Drug Rehab
      # 3 got killed in a robbery
      # 4 is in Drug rehab

      • B”H your kids doing Great. Avg about 125.000+ I assume you live in NY,NJ or other Democratic controlled States where the Economy thanks to the Democrats are way above the economy of Trumps States like No Dakota etc. Just say Thanks to Hashem and make sure all you kids vote Democrat and not to be Kofu Tov. In fact 4 weeks ago in the Midterm Election the 10 Wealthiest Congressional Districts were all voted Democrat. 10 out of ten. FYI Special Eds teachers in Louisiana earn app. 30.000 In West Virginia and most Trumpist States they wouldnt have a job.

      • Yossi, its good to see your kids are BH successful and not like socialists and liberals that demand that other people pay for their stuff or wait in line for a government handout.

    7. Would ANY NYS agency ever deny monetary aid of ANY sort to an illegal, who will never ever learn to speak english, let alone go to school?
      Doubt it.
      NYS Liberal double standard, driven by our own self hating jews.

    8. Let’s dispell a common myth
      People say viluzhin closed down bec of secular studies .

      Not true
      Viluzhin actually gave in. It was only an issue when they forced it to be the main subject / study of the day .
      And there was a fight with the mir plus in house fighting too

    9. What’s terrible is that the mosdos kicked out perfectly healthy unvacinated children from school on the recommendations of the city, that gave legitimacy to the city that they have a saying in our mosdos, all menahilm/minehalos so are ignorant to realize that they just emolded the city that we are giving in to their demands.

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