Former Hasidic Couple Sues Quebec For Failure To Make Sure They Were Properly Educated

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Yohanan and Shifra Lowen are suing the Quebec province and school system. (Screen shot from YouTube)

MONTREAL (JTA) – A former Hasidic Jewish couple is suing the Quebec province and school system, claiming the government did not make sure they received a complete education.

The trial opened Monday in Quebec Superior Court and is expected to last about two weeks.

Yohanan and Shifra Lowen filed the lawsuit five years ago, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. They are not suing for money but are demanding a declaratory judgment to force Quebec to provide more oversight to ensure that children who attend private religious schools learn the provincial curriculum.

“The plaintiffs finished their high school education without knowing about the St. Lawrence River or the theory of evolution,” the summary of their claim reads.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in New York and in Israel, where some reform has been undertaken.

Yohanan Lowen says in the lawsuit that when he finished school at the age of 18 he could barely add or subtract, could not read and write in English or French, and was unprepared to find work, according to the CBC.

Lawyers representing the province and the Tash community on Monday told the court that the problems with the students’ education have been addressed, the Canadian Press reported.

Lowen broke ties a decade ago with Tash, an insular Hasidic sect based in Quebec. He and his wife, whose legal name is Clara Wasserstein, have four children and live in Montreal.

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59 COMMENTS

    • I don’t know either way but what do they do for a living? Are they now educated high functional people?

      As a side question, how come most footsteps folks , once offered the opportunity and in college, chose to major in arts and other loserish fields? Why don’t they become Doctors or lawyers, actuaries or accountants like normal functional people? Many charedi yeshiva guys who had no secular studies in hs become lawyers and accountants ( drs are harder)

      • Give me a break. Anyone can make it in this society. If they don’t then they are losers.

        That being said, the chedarim and yeshivas who don’t teach basic English and math skills are crippling their kids and making it exceedingly hard to make it financially.

        • Yes and no. I see many of the “litfish” “yeshvish” who never had much of a secular HS education yet they become accoutants and lawyers etc… It doesn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle towards one career.

          I am concerned with no secular education in HS as it raises many to be laidgers. 9th graders cannot sit and learn all day. Most batal away the day.

        • I don’t know… my husband and older sons had poor english education. We’re chassidish… But they taught themselves… they read alot. My sons go to college and have great jobs. My husband didn’t go to college but holds a high ranking job. And they all remained faithful and chassidish.
          So bottom line, if there is a will the tree e is a way.
          Crying and complaining and blaming will not get you anywhere. Pick yourself up and do what you gotta do!!!!

          • You aRE right , Hitler ymsh interrupted my education and so did Getto Lodz and Buchenwald. I met my wife and she told me I should a high school equivalence test and my answer to her and if I fail , her reply you take it again. I passed the test not with a high scure and finished 2 yrs of college with a3.5 averasge

    • I don’t know him personally but to a certain degree they are losers(That’s if he’s a capable person)I actually believe if you’re a good student in Yeshiva You actually get a lot further than those who went through public school no patience to get into all the details my wife and I went through the Yeshiva system I am doing well my wife got her GED went to college got two masters and is doing well so the fact that we were brought up in the yeshiva world that actually helped through this journey.However I will say the system does have a problem it does not help those that need the help to achieve their full potential to make it in life that’s where they lack big-time you get thrown under the bus if you’re not capable of keeping up on your own.This topic you could write a book on the problem things will never change

    • They are losers!.
      My children attended the same Hasidic schools they are complaining about. My daughter is an MD my son is an RN and is now back in school for a higher degree my other 3 children are successful business people. I had the highest education from all my children in elementry school and i’m the worst off from all of my children. So
      mr Lowen go to school now and get the education your complaing about.

  1. If they got high marks on their tests and they didn’t know how to read and write, that might be one thing. However, if the school tried to educate them and they were bad students, that’s prob not the schools fault.

  2. Nebech on these losers. Last time I checked, a nice percentage of their classmates are millionaires without having learned to add, subtract, or multiply in Yeshivah. They decided to go a different path, and life didn’t work out how they thought it would. So, you go ahead and claim the system. Get a lice.

    • They don’t deny your point. There are some very successful people in the Hasidic community who can’t speak proper English, let alone write a coherent sentence in English. However, majority of the graduates are not the millionaires you mention and are not as capable as their peers in the millionaire group. A solid education that would allow them to secure a college degree and land a respectable, well paying jobs as a professionals. I don’t necessarily approve of their methods, but to just write them off as losers is wrong.

    • Someone is a millionaire without having learned to add, subtract or multiply???

      If these people do not have those basic skills, I would assume they miscounted their money, and are far from being a millionaire.

    • Lasy time I checked, the government is supporting a ridiculous amount of able bodied frum people, their parnassah is off the books, and news stories come out every so often with Lakewood families getting arrested for fraud.
      Maybe, just maybe, they have a point?????? Is it such a bad thing to learn a profession??????

  3. Happen to know them. She is a brilliant woman. There is a famous piece in yiddish sung at many gdoilim that she wrote. Thoae are dear neshamois and sorry, but they do have a point.

  4. This is a choice of those parents who want insular education.there are other choices. Their law suit is part of a backlash against the herotage theor parents chose for them and not towards the private chasidish school. Wrong party sued

    • Exactly.
      I am sure Quebec provides public schools where they teach all that. If they want to sue someone, they should try their parents for sending them to Tosh. If they really want to learn, they should go to school themselves & learn.

    • no – the only job of the government is to protect us during war – pretty much everything else is supposed to be self-government, at least in the US. Canada is still under the crown, so they don’t have freedom like US.

      • Oddly enough they tax us to provide for the education of children. This case claims the government took the money but did not hold up their part of the deal. Since the government said they were going to do something they must be forced to do it.

  5. my kids went to charadi cheders in Jerusalem. They learned how to think and analyze. 3 boys went into various professions. they studied for one year and now make a good parnasa.

    Secular education may teach math, science and physics, but also kefer and immorality and certainly not how to think and analyze.

  6. U still have to love them and go out of your way to take them in to your house as per screw ball Avi Fishof. What a shame that he has an open door by a lot of Rabbes and Rabunim!

  7. For those of you touting all the “millionaires” who succeed despite receiving no education, please stop writing about all the minute exceptions to a basic fundamental fact. The hamon am are not geniuses or natural, ultra savvy, business heads capable of building these empires! Most people who graduate not knowing how to even write a basic check are doomed to go on government programs, make parnassah from illicit means (the jails are unfortunately full of minyanim), or be destitute and dependent on tzedaka when they are young and healthy! It clearly says in halacha a father must teach his son a profession. Who are you to argue otherwise????? Stop bringing the few millionaire exceptions in the community when everyone else is floundering!
    I don’t know if this couple is just spiteful, but the reality is that it’s a Shanda that yeshivos are churning out young, able bodied people who are destined to in fall into these situations because their parents and teachers were reckless. Look in the mirror, suck in your ego, and do what’s right. Teach the basics!

    • Exactly on point! While there are obviously people who are entrepreneurial and are financially successful (Bill Gate is not a college graduate), education is highly correlated to economic achievement. The more education, the higher the level of income. The reverse is also true. Accordingly to U.S. government statistics, the poorest community in the country is New Square (with Kiryas Yoel not far behind) where there is very little basic secular education.

    • Fine, most people aren’t going to be millionaires. But most people, even without a secular education, manage to make a decent living, as long as they’re willing to put in the effort (and, more to the point, that Hashem blesses those efforts).

  8. Not knowing about the foolish fiction of evolution will not hold back people from becoming wealthy or successful. In fact anyone who believes in this science fiction called evolution is an idiot. Angry tuna bagels are basically losers.

  9. Sorry, everyone in montreal knows where the st laurence river is. Montreal is an island, and in order to go to laval, new york, monsey, Monroe you must go over it. How did they graduate school and barely add and subtract? Hello, some basic rashi’s? That is also not mainstream in any school at all.
    He may have needed special ed and not received it, in which case I can’t wait for all the undeserved public school students to start suing.

    • “He may have needed special ed and not received it,”
      Which is, as far as I’m told, the case. I know plenty of people who went through the various yeshivas in Montreal. Many of them have actually done something with themselves and are successful. This couple’s raison d’etre is to go around maligning the frum community. I’m not aware that they actually do anything. Not sure how they make a living….

      If someone wants to be successful, they willpick themselves up and do something about it, no matter what background they have.
      Plenty of public school students drop out and belong to gangs. What about them. How come nobody complains about that?

      • Boys in the French school system graduate at a rate of 50.4%. The number goes up to about 80% when they hit 25 years old.
        In Quebec you don’t need a ged to access cegep (kind of college) if you are a mature student (over 21).
        When I call 311 and push the English option, the person who answers the phone may have a more broken English than your average tosher chossid. People communicate here in English (anglophones), French (francophones) or a broken mix of both (allophones, usually immigrants). We are used to a language barrier. Many road signs have pictures instead of words. Not everyone is fluent in both languages and the city runs fine.
        It is also very common to perfect your French in adulthood if you are not a native speaker. You need a different vocabulary when you are working rather than in school and there are classes and teachers everywhere for this.

  10. Politics aside; if the Canadian, US, UK or any government decides it is a requirement that all kids go to school from age 3/4/5 until 16/17/18, then children need to go to a school.
    If the requirement is that they must teach Math & English, then the school must do that; and the school should be penalized if it doesnt.
    But is there a requirement that the school / government must ensure that all people know certain things? What if the kid is just stupid. You cant force people to know things. Suing does not seem like a correct approach.
    Why doesnt he sue his parents for sending him to that school and not the public school?
    You cant lead a life trying to blame someone else for everything.

  11. Why don’t they sue the Hasidic sect outside Mtl where the guy comes from? After all, if the sect has so many millionaires like some commenters claim, they should easily be able to afford a settlement.

    What is going on is that some extreme sects (and/or their allies/spokespeople), who do not educate adequately, are trying to hide behind the yeshivas who educate their students in an exemplary fashion. They are trying to fool people by lumping different types of yeshivos together. But the yeshiva of a fanatic sect is not the same as that of a responsible institution.

    • Because he’s not suing for money. He wants a declaration from the government that they will be stricter with their laws. It seems like he is the vaad mishmeret hatznius in the reverse. He doesn’t want money, he wants to harass people until they do as he believes.

  12. just blaming others for their lack of success .anyone can study a little and pass a g.e.d. even if they had a shoddy education or majored in basketball while in high school.blame blame bleame.just buy a mirror

    • You don’t need a ged to go to cegep in quebec. Depending on your income and dependants it’s free (or you get a bursary) to go. Anybody with decent study skills has to put in a year or two of study and can get up to par.
      The yeshiva graduates have very good study skills as a whole.

  13. Quite simple…

    Top 20% (80%-100%) will succeed with or without a proper eduction.

    Bottom 20% (0%-20) will fail with or without an eduction.

    Middle 60% (20%-80%) are materially impacted by the quality of their education.

    • Exactly.

      This stupidity about uneducated Chasidim who happen to be rich is so stupid I can believe they didn’t get an education, they have zero critical thinking skills. But I’m sure “mine kids never whent to englis and they ar al milionairs but I went to culumbia and I am the least sucesfull out of Al of them”

  14. Ignoring the ad hominem comments…does anyone claim that chareidi yeshiva/seminary education is on par with general educational standards?

    I’m not talking about hoshkofa sensitive issues…I’m talking about basic math and writing skills and subjects like elementary national history. One of my children, now approaching middle age, attended a “top” seminary in Brooklyn and graduated with top grades…but from a school with a curriculum completely lacking in all the basics.

    • What are you calling basics? Math, english and history? Or number sense, language and fact memorization?

      The current educational trend in nyc (post common core) is that skills is more important then content. In history, we want kids to take two historical texts and analyze the viewpoint of each author. In language class we want kids to break down vocabulary words into shoresh, prefix and suffix and know the latin roots. In math class we want kids to learn problem solving skills- and ask any kid taking common core math- this isnt your grandmothers addition anymore. No more formulas- now we teach addition as a concept.

      Since the current focus is on skills and not content- these can easily be learned in another language and another topic. Kids who have a strong language curriculum in either hebrew or yiddish learn the essential language skills. There will always be kids who struggle to learn language or analytic skills whichever school they are in.

      So if you want to know who is doing a better job teaching the basics -you can just see the facts.

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