MAILBAG: Update From Yosef Shidler About Lakewood Yeshivas Not Accepting Children

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EDITORS NOTE: This article was submitted by the author on Tuesday afternoon, and since that time, a Lakewood school has reached out to him to offer to accept his child into their school.

Having been overwhelmed by the public show of support that my wife and I received after sharing the story of our failed attempts to get our daughter into school, I feel compelled to express our gratitude to the many people who contacted us to let us know that they are there for us as we face this challenge, with far too many sharing that they were in the same boat. I wish I could tell you that our daughter has been accepted by a Lakewood school in the past week, but sadly that isn’t the case. One school offered to accept my child, if I was willing to retract my letter and apologize.

To be honest, I did not expect the letter to change much of anything. It wasn’t intended to promote or create arguments about my Instagram page, which I run under the direction of my rov. It was simply me, giving voice to my feeling. It is the story of my pain and that of many others as well. There is so much more that I could say on the matter but my goal here isn’t to write a second letter.

With the start of the academic year just a month away, the time has come for my wife and me to revisit an option we had considered earlier: putting together a small group of like minded individuals who are interested in a program for five year olds, with an eye towards possibly creating a warm and welcoming school with solid Torah hashkafos. Perhaps it is too late to make anything happen for this year, but we are certianly willing to try.

Our concept is simple. Right now we are seeking to have a primary group of a few girls run out of a basement and will be hiring in an experienced morah who will work with mechanchim to develop a solid curriculum. We have already spoken to a few promising candidates but the bigger question is can we get a group of students together. If we can make a go of it this year, then looking ahead to the future, if the program evolves into a first grade for the following year, we will bring a vaad of rabbonim on board to ensure the integrity of our blossoming school.

It is important to mention that my Tisha B’Av letter was not intended to create problems or generate gossip but to find a solution to an untenable situation. While I may be only a young father at age thirty, I already have considerable experience getting projects off the ground: an overnight Denver summer camp that I founded 12 years ago is still running today, as is Yeshiva in California that has already given semicha to 100 bochurim since I helped launch it eight years ago. I spent six successful years teaching as an elementary school grades and my photography business is B”H one of the most successful in the tri-state area. In short, I have no problem stepping up when there is a need to be filled and while I know that not every endeavor can succeed, I am davening fervently that perhaps this one can flourish because there is no doubt that Lakewood needs a school where all children who seek a Torah education in a loving environment are welcome.

I also need to set the record straight. I didn’t come here to change Lakewood. I didn’t come here to be the next chabad Rabbi in town. I am just a father looking for a nice quiet life for my family.

This morning as I was walking through the airport on the way back from a business trip, I saw a sign bearing the sad looking face of a child soliciting donations to feed hungry children in Africa. Looking at that picture a thought occurred to me: we have Kriyas HaTorah every three days because just as a person can not go three days without food, so too one must not go three days without Torah. Seeing the picture of that hungry child in Africa had me thinking sadly of my own daughter and others like her. There are children right here in Lakewood who are hungry, yearning for a taste of Torah. Maybe we can still feed those children. Maybe it isn’t too late to make a difference. People have called me and offered to try and push my kids into schools where they have connections, but I would rather not be the one being pushed in. Maybe I am dreaming, but I want someone who wants my child. Not someone doing me a favor. I would rather make a difference in our community. Because no child should ever be hungry for Torah.

If you have a five year old daughter who needs a placement for the upcoming school year, know of an available property, would like to support our endeavors, or are interested in contributing your time or services please email us [email protected] or call me direct 718.781.6405 . We look forward to hearing from you.

Yosef Shidler – Lakewood, NJ

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


39 COMMENTS

  1. The schools in this town are packed so everyone needs pull in this town – even the majority that have amazing children – need pull, the schools are not coming to them.
    I don’t understand why you wouldn’t take the help offered to you?

  2. I admire your actions in taking a stand but this letter sounds a bit to self aggrandizing and pompous. If you really had your child’s well being in mind, you would have put your ego aside and done anything to get her into a Yeshiva. Now your child will go another year without a Yeshiva because you get to be the big hero. Grow up and satisfy your agenda without sacrificing your daughter’s neshama.

  3. stopthemesira- did you ever go through what he did? It sounds like it’s easy for you to judge someone else’s pain. At the same time what is a school supposed to do if their classes are packed and they have another 100 people who want to get in?

  4. I have a niece in Lakewood that just graduated elementary school in June, and as of today – a month or so before she is supposed to start high school – she still has no school to go to. I am sure my sister and brother in-law have sleepless nights because of this, even though they dont admit it. They applied to a couple of schools, and no one wanted to accept her. The parents are real frum yeshivishe guys with all the shtick involved, the girl is a regular ehrliche tzniusdige teenager, nothing wrong with this family, besides the fact that they are not wealthy. So I guess the only reason behind not accepting her is the fact that upon sending in the application there was not a shoichad fat check included(I have heard these rumors about Lakewood for years, looks like its more then a rumor). If this is the reason, I pity these school administrators for the day they will stand before the beis din shel maalah.

  5. I’m glad your daughter got into a school as is stated in the intro to the article.

    But posting on instragram under the “guidance of a rav” is laughable. There are unfortunately a lot of “ra”bonim out there. For those claiming halacha does allow it, it is ridiculous. There are numerous transgressions involved in frum women being posted on instagram.

  6. Even institution is allowed to have whatever standards they so choose As long as they are absolutely consistent

    Name just one Institution that unfailingly is

    ’nuff said

  7. This mafioso style of telling people of lakewood to do xyz or your kids will get thrown out of school is not a new concept. This applies to going to frum concerts,going to blue claws stadium located in lakewood and partially owned by Bmg.
    The lakewood mafioso threw out H hershkowitz kids for not towing the bmg politics.
    They forced mr rechnitz from LA to retract his earth shattering but true to fact speech about a lakewood “machla”. “Aka Chinuch thuggery”
    And on and on.
    They even forced a lakewood blogger to stop writing facts about bmg or will have his kids thrown out . And he buckled from pressure.
    The fact that this mr shidler did not fall for this school thuggery to withdraw his lettr and apologize is a a tremendous sign that people are not going to stand idle and be bullied.

    Wishing mr shidler all the best in his new school .
    You did the right thing for standing up against these thugs.

  8. Im very happy that he’s trying to fix the problem that is affecting so many. Instead of selfishly forgetting about the problem as soon as he has a solution for his daughter alone, he is actually trying to help the klal.

    Please mr shidler, even if you send your daughter to a school tht accepts her, please continue with your efforts to help everyone else.

    May Hashem repay you tenfold.

  9. The original and follow-up letters as well as the numerous thoughtful postings somehow make it sound like this is a uniquely Lakewood issue or a problem unknown outside of the frum community. Anyone who lives or works in the NYC metro area knows that the top secular pre-schools and prep schools in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn are incredibly selective with some accepting ony 1 in 10 to 12 applicants (with some preference to siblings of current students). Parents someho make do and send their kids to a lesser0-ranked school, a more distant school (as was an option for the Lakewood prents) or home school (as is also the case, perhaps in coordination with other parents whose kids also have been rejected). In any event, there are always options and fortunately it seems from this update that at least one school has reached out and offered a slot for the child in question. Until school capacity expands in Lakewood to catch up with the population growth, parents should either be prepared to send their kids to more distant schools, use public schools in combination with home schooling for limudei kodesh or as several have suggested, move to another community whose yeshivos have capacity for new students.

  10. I spoke to you on the phone and expressed my support for what you want to do. As someone said, this is a mafia.. thugs, and nothing more. They are copying EY… time for small groups/homeschooling.. You have a lot of courage… kol hakovod.

  11. Dave Fried – I am heartbroken for those who do not have a place for their daughters – I can only imagine their pain. BUT HE WAS OFFERED a place. And he chose not to retract his letter. That’s not someone who has only his daughter’s well being in mind.

  12. I know many sweet girls who were denied acceptance into Lakewood schools over the past 15 years- because they weren’t the typical cookie cutter. Children of lakewood rabbanim and top lakewood mental health professionals. Their own parents couldn’t get them into school. The schools had such a horrible “holier than though” attitude. Shutting out the girls because they had creative flair that ‘threatened’ the administration, they had learning disabilities and were labeled ‘potential bad influence’ or where struggling teens that just needed some love from educators. Guess where those girls are today?? None are shomer shabbos and they credit it to the abusive way they were treated by the schools and the nasty things they were told by these close minded schools.

  13. Takes2-2tango,

    You are right on every word you said. I myself asked that Lakewood “blogger” why he changed the entire content of his “blog”. His answer- ” my kids need a school to go to”. Mafia style is just not the right way to do things. It eventually backfires. Basically it’s already there but soon it will be solidified- the “mafia” we refer to will have minimal to any power that they used to have. Look at the Middle East; people tolerate but eventually rise up against their oppressors- yes, oppressors.

  14. There’s a very simple solution to this problem – move OOT! Move someplace where your kids will be valued as tayere yiddishe kinderlach, not just another application form. For that matter, you yourself will be valued more, as someone who contributes to the community, and not just another yarmulkeh/sheitel in the crowd.

    Unless you’re actually attending BMG, why do you need to live in Lakewood? Just because its “the thing to do?” Move someplace where you can sleep nights without worrying about your kids getting lost in the crowd, or kicked out of school if they don’t conform exactly to the crowd. The frum world is much bigger than the tristate area.

  15. Stopthemesira

    Y should he retract his letter ?
    The truth hurts?
    All he did is write the truth
    Take off your blind fold from your eyes
    Fact is that a lot of families move to Lakewood every year and kids get in to schools I have plenty of friends that moved recently and kids got in
    How I though there is no room the schools can’t be lying

  16. Attention Mr. “thank Hashem”

    Did you bother finding out that there are 50-60 girls that graduated 8th grade that there is no space in the current high schools for them for this September? Or you only heard the part about sending in Shochad with the application.
    And speaking about having pity… I pity you when you will have to give a din v’cheshbon for being choished bichsheirim in front of the whole world and making up total false stories about a group of hard working people.

  17. your class always has these issues , amudim, minyan shelanu, acihezer, ohr naava, cope , shalom task force,, at risk kids kids on drugs etc tzaros cant get your kids into schools wear cheapie clothing .your all the same , maybe train your kids to eat with a fork and a knife and have european manners (soft spoken gentle refined) instead of being course and grub then maybe you wouldn’t end up having these issues its always the lower class that has these problems the ones that move to lakewood for the cheap housing or to buy a hugggggggge house for cheap,

  18. This is one of the big drawbacks about living in such a large community. It is not possible to create that community warmth necessary for all children(and families) to find their place ..just too too big. Money won’t fix it. Why is everyone stuck on the name “lakewood”?…time to move on.

  19. To coffee addict & the rest:

    This “offer” came with conditions – retract the letter & apologize. To whom should Mr. Shidler apologize? To the schools who discriminate? To the Rabbonim & community leaders who condone & encourage this discrimination? Why should he? He did nothing wrong. On the contrary, he had the courage to sign his name. He told the TRUTH, unpalatable as it is to the rest of you.

    My children know the Shidlers, & they are decent, quiet people who just want to give their children the best kind of life. Obviously, in Lakewood this isn’t happening. Personally, I wouldn’t stay to fight against such vicious sina, corruption & hypocrisy. I’d leave, & that is what I think the Shidlers should do. This hate is in these people’s DNA – just look at the nasty comments on here. BH your children are young & their education won’t suffer if they miss a few weeks of school (which they don’t have anyway.) And at this point, I would consider legal action (checking with a non-Lakewood Rav first!)

    CH is definitely an ugly place and may not have the country feel of Lakewood, but your children will thrive educationally & socially, and you won’t be condemned for your profession or your hashkafa.

  20. Ghadorah,
    Do any of the those institutions term themselves mosdos tzibbur?And fundraise? call it tzedakah? Expect to sit in the front of the shul?
    However,yes,it is out of hand everywhere and destroying America’s fabric

  21. cousin sue,
    That is because Lakewood cultivated that
    They subverted any attempt to start competition e.g Sloatsville,etc.

  22. This is the same Big Mouth couple that started up with Southwest Airlines four years ago. They like to start up with institutions and make a lot of noise about it. You can look it up online.

  23. While this wicked practice of school principals is clearly the number 1 problem of major frum cities worldwide today, the non frum pictures on the home page of this guys website raise serious doubt as to his claim of being frum and wanting True Torah education for his daughter.

  24. A Stone -“Did you bother finding out that there are 50-60 girls that graduated 8th grade that there is no space in the current high schools for them for this September? Or you only heard the part about sending in Shochad with the application.”

    So WHY don’t the 60 schools, or 1 or 2 of them, add another class?!?
    When there was only 2 schools in Lakewood – they accepted e/o!
    Esp. NOW that they have brand New buildings.

    I agree – “And speaking about having pity… I pity you when you, A Stone, will have to give a din v’cheshbon for being choished bichsheirim in front of the whole world.”

  25. Genya -“Lakewood despite what some of you think is not the be all and end all of Yiddishkeit.”

    I moved here when it was a Hic town. Since then people came here by the droves, mainly from NY.
    I would Not move to this town/city Nowadays!

  26. Rechnitz does not our approval for his stand on the issue of the schools.
    Rav Leib Shteinman always claimed that it’s all about gaivah, gaivah, gaivah.

    A shame on all of those that critiqued Rechnitz.

  27. Don’t quite get how this apparent troublemaker got to post an inflammatory letter against an amazing number of yeshivos on two popular Jewish news websites, on Tisha Bav. Follow the money as someone is nebach sponsoring this campaign to make proud and dedicated educational institutions, our life and blood, look bad. Usid litein es hadin. The same troublemaker family was in the media a few years ago for fighting Southwest airlines staff. Anyone can look this up. By some people it’s their way it the highway. They don’t feel any need to conform to school standards but prefer to make the schools, who are trying their best, to look bad. A Shanda.

  28. so happy that another normative, frum, torah abiding school will open in lakewood.

    kol hakavod to Mr. Shidler
    most wonderful mosdos, organizations and camps are started by layman
    who are lshem shamayim. Wishing you tremendous hatzlacha.

    I’ve heard through the grapevine that an ordinary, Torah learning mestiva
    is planned for Tom’s River, that would be amazing. Torah is beautiful, extensive
    and open to all shomrei mitzvohs.

  29. what’s lakewood?

    philadelphia;s community is exploding.

    if you’re adventurous, go to charleston, south carolina. the school needs more students desperately. every child is appreciated. there1st kosher market opened TODAY.

    atlanta is a great place to live with a yeshiva. less expensive than charleston.

    why would anyone want to live in a place like lakewood?

  30. Philosopher

    “There are numerous transgressions involved in frum women being posted on instagram.”

    Assuming they are dressed appropriately, and are not engaged in any inappropriate activity, what are the numerous transgressions involved with being “posted” on instagram? Please be specific.

  31. Attention Mr. Health. I’m not sure if I should waste my time responding to you. You obviously didn’t or couldn’t comprehend the comment I responded to, which was about the shortage of space in this year’s 9th grade for 50-60 girls. This was part of your response; “So WHY don’t the 60 schools, or 1 or 2 of them, add another class?!?
    When there was only 2 schools in Lakewood – they accepted e/o!
    Esp. NOW that they have brand New buildings.” You make yourself sound pretty uninformed. First of all, there are “under” 10 established girls high schools in Lakewood. Second of all, what does brand new buildings have to do with anything at all. If the classes are full wall to wall, and there’s not an empty room in the building, what is the difference when the building was built. There is one specific popular high school, that (ask any girl there) you literally can not walk down the hallway by break time. The crowds are probably on the dangerous level…

  32. I do not understand all the hate against Lakewood – specifically from those preaching liberal love (what is really bothering you)?

    On the topic of schools, I personally know administrators/founders of a number of boys and girls schools in Lakewood, they are truly dedicated individuals without any mafionic agenda. They and their staff truly want the students to succeed in the ways of Hashem.

    The issue with space in school is simple, many new schools did open up over the past 5 years and many new classes were added to old schools, however there is a limit as to how fast a school can handle healthy growth. If you look at the number of families that moved to Lakewood and surrounding areas (Toms River, Jackson..) just in the past 5 years you will see they outpace any healthy growing schools.

    It is really unfair to lash out at people you don’t know about.

  33. A Stone – Are you by any chance an administrator? When I wrote 60 it was referring to all Lakewood schools, Not just Girls’ HS.

    “Second of all, what does brand new buildings have to do with anything at all.”
    Because e/o who wants to go to a Frum school should be able to!
    Put them in the dining room or the gym, which a lot of NEW schools have.
    I think you should read PrincessCholent post.
    Here it is again:
    “I know many sweet girls who were denied acceptance into Lakewood schools over the past 15 years- because they weren’t the typical cookie cutter. Children of lakewood rabbanim and top lakewood mental health professionals. Their own parents couldn’t get them into school. The schools had such a horrible “holier than though” attitude. Shutting out the girls because they had creative flair that ‘threatened’ the administration, they had learning disabilities and were labeled ‘potential bad influence’ or where struggling teens that just needed some love from educators. Guess where those girls are today?? None are shomer shabbos and they credit it to the abusive way they were treated by the schools and the nasty things they were told by these close minded schools.”
    Btw, I don’t know PrincessCholent IRL, but I believe her post!