NYC Concludes Investigation Into Yeshivas After YAFFED Allegations; PEARLS Responds

24
YAFFED's Naftuli Moster (front row, 2nd from right) joined activists on the front steps of NYC's City Hall, April 5th 2018 [Credit: YAFFED/Facebook]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

New York City education officials have completed a probe of Yeshivas accused of failing to provide students with an adequate secular education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the investigation in July 2015, after YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education) published a list of 39 Yeshivas that received public funding, but they claim failed to provide adequate secular education.

By state law, private K-12 schools must provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools.

NYC School Chancellor Richard Carranza sent a 14-page letter to New York’s state education commissioner expressing “serious concern” after he says 15 Yeshivas refused to allow city officials inside to investigate. Carranza says the city  “made repeated attempts to gain access” to the 15 Yeshivas for two years.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Carranza’s letter said department staff visited 15 additional schools cited for concern, where yeshiva leaders “expressed a commitment to expanding students’ exposure to secular instruction and to improving the instruction itself”. The agency found that nine other sites fell outside the scope of the review, mostly because they had closed or taught students older than 12th grade, and one location turned out to be a butcher shop.

[RELATED – MOSTER CONTINUES HIS ATTACKS: YAFFED Sues NY State Over Hasidic Yeshiva Education; PEARLS Responds]

Avi Schick, an attorney for the yeshivas under scrutiny, denied the city’s claim of barred access. “It’s false,” he said. “The city for this entire year has dithered.” Shick added that 8 of the 15 yeshivas were willing to schedule visits with the city.

In response to the letter, Rabbi Chaim David Zwiebel, Executive VP of Agudath Israel of America, said “there’s so much here that’s positive and important and a cause for celebration,”

Zwiebel said the schools have added new textbooks and teacher training “because the schools recognize and understand not only that there are legal obligations but more importantly that children who go through the system should emerge with the basic skills and tools necessary to function as citizens in society.”

But Naftuli Moster, executive director of YAFFED, noted that all of the school visits were arranged in advance. “Undoubtedly, the schools prepared for those visits and put their best foot forward — even if it was a fabricated foot,” he said.

Moster also said it was “disappointing but not surprising” that city education officials were not allowed into 15 schools.

Dozens of Yeshivas under investigation formed a coalition in 2016 called PEARLS, or Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, to insist on parents’ rights to choose an education that suited their beliefs. PEARLS pledged to disseminate new, improved reading and math curricula, and provide teacher training, to meet state standards.

PEARLS provided YWN with the following statement in regard to the Department of Education letter:

For the past three years, New York’s orthodox Jewish communities have been forced to endure a relentless campaign of slander against their schools and way of life.

Today the City’s Department of Education transmitted its findings to the State Education Department. The letter confirms that YAFFED’s allegations against the yeshivas have no basis in fact. To the contrary, the city’s letter cites one example after another of our yeshiva children receiving a rich education.

The state must now recognize this matter for what it is: An attempt to usurp parents’ rights to select the best education for their children – particularly if the schools in question are located in orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. It is time to end this assault on our community once and for all.

The DOE found YAFFED’S allegations of substandard education to be false. DOE officials visited 15 of the 30 schools listed in YAFFED’s complaint, and found quality teaching and learning environments in those schools.

The DOE’s investigation also established that YAFFED’s complaint involved at most 30 schools, not the 39 that were previously cited, and that after interviewing the complainants it turned out that they had first-hand information about only 11 of those schools.

Any suggestion that the yeshivas were less than cooperative in arranging the remaining visits is false. We have spent endless hours working with the DOE to address YAFFED’s attacks on our yeshivas. We facilitated visits to 15 schools and repeatedly offered to arrange more. DOE is more than welcome to see any of our classrooms and witness the extraordinary education we offer our children.

Significantly, the yeshivas visited by DOE to date have been those with the largest enrollments. Specifically, the 15 schools visited educated more than 13,000 students, while the remaining eight elementary schools have an aggregate enrollment of only 3,000.

That means that DOE has visited schools with more than 80% of the students in all elementary schools listed in YAFFED’s complaint.

It is not the city that is mostly at fault here. YAFFED’s tiny group of media-savvy activists ginned up the debate by disseminating information that few bothered to fact-check. They released a report on secular education at the yeshivas that many cited as a credible source – even though its findings were based on a survey of the YAFFED founder’s Facebook friends.

YAFFED’s caricature of a backward culture deliberately keeping its children ignorant played into awful stereotypes about the orthodox communities. Years of hard work by civic leaders to combat such prejudices were undermined by the controversy.

There are more than 425 yeshivas in New York, educating more than 165,000 students. Of those, more than 275, with approximately 115,000 students, are in New York City. The schools not yet visited by DOE educate a small fraction of those students.

We remain proud of our yeshivas, our students, teachers and entire community and continue our commitment to the belief that parents deserve the right to choose the best education for their children.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


24 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t want the state involved in education either, but let’s face the facts: “Yeshiva” education is sorely lacking. The schools try up to a point, but the kids are mostly uninterested, and give the teachers a very hard time. It also doesn’t help that general studies takes place at the later hours of the day, when kids have already been in school for 5-8 hours.

  2. 1. Frei Jews are like that. At least they aren’t (at this time) trying to get the goyim to kill us.

    2. Federal law, especially as interpreted by “originalists” is our best protection.

    3. It would be in the frum communities’ interests to migrate to “red” states, which appears to be happening slowly. It should also be noted that even with “blue” states, areas dominated by African-American Christians tend to be less likely to be anatgonistic to us than areas where the political life is dominated by secular Jews (such as New York City).

  3. Let’s not pretend like the government is the evil entity here. They are providing financial subsidies to the schools on the condition that they comply with their standards of education, and that is completely reasonable. If these chasidish schools don’t want to comply with these standards, then they shouldn’t be taking money from the government. What these schools are doing is downright theft and creates a huge chillul hashem, but nice of them to make themselves into the victims

  4. I am proud that the witch hunt, aka the Yaffed Revenge Attack, failed to incriminate yeshivos. The reality, however, is that the secular education offered the students of the average yeshiva is woefully inadequate. It is the exception that a yeshiva graduate can write a straight English sentence without glaring mistakes that are truly shameful. Many yeshiva kids have inferior math capability, relying on calculators to do their work. Nothing against kosher technology, but when someone cannot calculate a simple gematria on Shabbos, it is a disgrace.

    I do hope that PEARLS succeeds in the mission they tout to bring kosher secular education to our yeshivos. Hearing someone stumble all over themselves when doing something simple like standing in the post office or bank, calling a travel agent or a government office because their English is primitive is quite painful. It’s one thing for a foreigner to have trouble with the language of the land, but those born and raised here should able to manage a conversation without difficulty. Our zaides and babbes managed well in their Russian or Polish.

  5. This report does not indicate what the Department of Education found, other than in a statement by PEARLS, which opposed the investigation. Perhaps the YWN reporters and editors did not receive an adequate journalism education when they attended school.

  6. I feel terrible for Moster’s neshama! It’s Elul now! Can he possibly do teshuva? Gosh! The reputation damage he caused is immeasurable and likely, to a large degree, irreversible!

  7. According to a report on the Daily News website which I read today (8/16/18, Gregorian), the city investigators have announced the completion of their investigation of city yeshivas but have NOT announced their findings. So all the jive by Avi Schick and his clients about the investigators’ not finding any problems is unfounded.

  8. Some years ago, I visited Israel. A frum friend of mine went to the grave site of Rabbi Shach. I then read a semi-biography of the Rabbi. A passage from that book is very, very pertinent to education and the present subject .

    I’ll paraphrase the quote (my memory is sketchy): “the greatest country in the 20th century was Germany: engineering, medicine, physics, poetry, philosophy, literature, [etc] and look what they did !!!!!” A reference to the Holocaust !!!

    Secular education is very much subordinate to high morality !!!

    A goy,
    Gerry Mullen

  9. Without going into detail. The following says it all:

    “By state law, private K-12 schools must provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools.”

    NY PS are one of the WORST in the USA, so by their standards any Chassidc school should be good enough..

  10. Mullin…..you create a false choice…its not as if the two are mutually exclusive. We know that yeshivos are (or should) be providing instruction in torah-based morality. The question here was whether there was a minimal standard of secular studies and job skills being provided. The answer is a qualified YES. No need to argue A or B. We can have A and B.

  11. 1. They are providing subsidies to parochial schools to get votes in election. If the quality of education was a factor you would see them supporting high standards for the public schools that they run.

    2. Constitutionally, they are not required to offer any subsidy to non-public schools, though they may have a limited duty to accomodate religious minorities in the public schools.

    3. If they tried to argue that frum schools should be banned for giving a poor education, they would have to show that the typical yeshiva students was worse off than the worst public school student whose lack of academic success did not result in the teacher or school board being dismissed.

  12. daasyeshara

    Stop with the slander.

    No government entity pays for Religious Education.

    No government entity pays for private school education either.

    Government entities pay for lunch for low income students ( nothing to do with education)

    $125 per year, for textbooks

    A few dollars for attendance

    ( the only secular education that the government pays for and administers is the title one program. That has nothing to do with the Yeshiva itself, rather, the government pays and provides teachers that follow a rigorous curriculum.)

    That’s it.

    The only theft occurring here is your attempt to deceive us with fake facts.

    So perhaps, instead of believing everything our haters tell you, try being a little bit considerate of the facts. TIA

  13. Huju

    (continued)

    The fact is that the letter indicates that the vast majority of the yeshivas visited were in compliance with the law and no cause for alarm was necessary.

    Of the remaining 15 schools that were not visited, there’s a dispute as to what efforts the city made to actually visit them and the willingness on the school’s to accommodate.

    According to PEARLS, their organization repeatedly tried accommodating the city’s request. I tend to believe them.

  14. @Daasyeshara how do you know thwy take money from the goverment do you have access to their hanhollah or accounts information???.

    @The little I know; not every chassidish kid has to be as brilliant as you think you are people are different, you might also find very well prepeared chassidishe kids that will amaze you, yes it is true back in der Haim yidden new Russian and polish, did it help them during the progroms?? Waisting hours of your day trying to impress goyim it’s just a bizayon to the Torah, its better to learn a blat gemara instead. I am just wondering why are you guys all into secualr education? FINISH SHAS FIRST!!! Bring some nachas ruach to Hashem for a change.

  15. I won’t go into the details of this whole argument. I don’t know enough about it.

    I can only say the following- I gave a ride to a Satmarer chosid in NY a few days ago. I casually mentioned that I live in Michigan. He responded in yiddish “is that in the Boro Park/Williamsburg neighborhood”? So I thought, okay this guy doesn’t know the states but the city of Detroit he’d know. Well he did not, his response was “what do I know”?! So I told him it’s up near Canada, he began to understand.

    I think something is woefully wrong when a 21 year old not only doesn’t know what Michigan (or any state) is but asks if it’s near BP or Williamsburg!!!

  16. To @ExposeYaffed: In what paragraph of this article does it say what the inspectors found and concluded? I don’t want to know what Avi Schick and his clients say the inspectors said, I want to know what the inspectors said. If you don’t understand the distinction, I cannot help you.

  17. @UncleMo, so what ? So he doesn’t know where that state is, what aveirah did he commit? Is that what we will be asked when we go to shomayim after 120? Just have some love and patience for another yid and explain nicely where that state is located in the map, you give more nachas ruach to Hashem that way than looking at a fellow with disgust or discriminatory eyes for not knowing what ? The map? Seriously?

  18. RighteousJudgement,

    Your comment is utterly ridiculous and actually very accusatory, with no basis whatsoever. I actually had, and have, alot of respect for that yungerman. He is a very sweet ehrliche yid (I gave him a ride a few times). Where did I say he did an aveira??? Not knowing if a STATE is near BP or Williamsburg is utterly ridiculous. I did not look at him with “disgust and discriminatory eyes”, as you state. What gives you the right to put words into my mouth? I think my post was very clear. Maybe YOU should start working on bringing nachas ruach to the RBS’H as you so eloquently demand of others, in a very twisted way! Somehow I doubt your incessant posting of comments on this site is bringing the nachas ruach to the RBS’H you are telling everyone else to do. Stop with your stupidity already.
    Perhaps YOU can tell me why you think it’s a mitzvah to be a complete ignoramous. I never said a bad word about this person but I firmly believe it is shameful that a 21 year old has no clue if Michigan is near Boro Park!

  19. RighteousJudgement,

    And FYI- I did explain very patiently and nicely where Michigan is located on the map. I told him you go through Pennsylvania and Ohio getting there. Then I realized, he wouldn’t know what PA and OH were either! So I told him it’s near Canada. That helped a bit.

  20. @UncleMo I apologize if you got the impression that I was attacking you, but your statements are more discriminatory than mine, you could cause other people to look at this type of guys like they with dislike, I never said it is a mitzvah to be ignorant you are putting words into my mouth too, defenetly gives more nachas ruach to Hashem to defend someone else’s Kavod than commenting derrogatoratly about someone else ridiculous lack of secular knowledge regardless how much you claim to respect him, you respect him but reading your words could cause someone else to disrespect him.