De Bla­sio Praised Bk­lyn Yeshiva Ac­cused of Not Pro­vid­ing Sec­u­lar Ed­u­ca­tion

The Jewish Voice - - NEW YORK - By Han­nah Hayes

The Gothamist has ob­tained a let­ter writ­ten by Mayor Bill de Bla­sio this past May, way af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was an­nounced by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion into dozens of yeshivas that were al­legedly de­priv­ing their stu­dents of a sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion, in which the Mayor gives praise to one of the very yeshivas be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

In the let­ter, de Bla­sio con­grat­u­lates Crown Heights yeshiva Oholei To­rah for "giv­ing its stu­dents the tools they need to build solid foun­da­tions for their fu­tures," de­spite the fact that many of the ul­tra-Ortho­dox school's grad­u­ates have said they were left un­pre­pared for col­lege and a ca­reer.

No find­ings have been pro­vided by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion per­tain­ing to their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the aca­demic neg­li­gence of 39 New York yeshivas, even though the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan more than two years ago and has passed by sev­eral promised dead­lines.

On Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 6, out­side City Hall at a press con­fer­ence, de Bla­sio's sup­port for the school was crit­i­cized by ad­vo­cates for sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion. The mayor and Schools Chan­cel­lor Car­men Far­iña were also ac­cused of not fol­low­ing up on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion out of fear of pos­si­bly of­fend­ing the vot­ers who are part of the Ha­sidic and ul­tra-Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties.

The group that ob­tained the mayor's let­ter, Young Adults For A Fair Ed­u­ca­tion's (Yaffed) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Naf­tuli Moster told Gothamist, "The pol­i­tics be­hind this is ob­vi­ous—the city is ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied of call­ing out the Ha­sidic yeshivas, be­cause the find­ings would in­di­cate that they're not even close to meet­ing state re­quire­ments [con­cern­ing ed­u­ca­tion]."

Ac­cord­ing to the group, the let­ter was in­cluded in a com­mem­o­ra­tive “jour­nal” that was given to guests that at­tended this year's din­ner for the yeshiva's 60th an­niver­sary. It is to be in­cluded in a soon to be re­leased re­port by Yaffed that ac­cuses Oholei To­rah of not pro­vid­ing a suf­fi­cient sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion to it stu­dents from kinder­garten through twelfth grade.

The Gothamist re­ports, “In July of 2015, around 50 yeshiva par­ents, alumni and for­mer teach­ers sent a let­ter to the DOE ex­press­ing their con­cern that the Ortho­dox schools were al­most en­tirely fo­cused on in­ten­sive re­li­gious stud­ies, to the ex­clu­sion of math, English, science and so­cial stud­ies. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port put out ear­lier this month by Yaffed, the lack of in­struc­tion in sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion leaves ‘young men

"The vast ma­jor­ity of Ha­sidic boys' high schools do not teach any sec­u­lar stud­ies, zero, not even English.”

lack[ing] the req­ui­site skills to ob­tain em­ploy­ment with a de­cent in­come to sup­port them­selves and their (of­ten large) fam­i­lies.' The re­port rec­om­mends that the DOE es­tab­lish a task force to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion in the schools, and that all fund­ing be cut to schools not meet­ing state bench­marks by sum­mer 2019.

In re­sponse Yaffed's re­port, the pro-yeshiva group Par­ents for Ed­u­ca­tional and Re­li­gious Lib­erty in Schools [PEARLS] re­leased a state­ment not­ing that the pur­pose of the ul­tra-Ortho­dox schools was for ‘chil­dren to re­ceive a re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion that is cen­tral to their cul­tural iden­tity, and that teaches young men and women to be­come thriv­ing, re­spected mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.' The group re­jected Yaffed's rec­om­men­da­tions.”

In re­sponse, Moster said, "The vast ma­jor­ity of Ha­sidic boys' high schools do not teach any sec­u­lar stud­ies, zero, not even English.”

The lack of sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion given at yeshiva schools in New York had been an on­go­ing is­sue in re­cent years.

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