New Yorkers should pay attention to the yeshiva schools controversy
Schools that deprive children of basic skills get millions of taxpayer dollars
Schools in the Orthodox Jewish community exist along a spectrum. The Modern Orthodox schools offer a well-rounded Jewish education as well as a robust secular education, by which I mean instruction in English, math, science, history, physical education, etc. Graduates of these Modern Orthodox schools do quite well academically and professionally, and their successes are now being touted as “proof” that the yeshiva system works and is even superior to public schools.
In fact, the majority of those advocating for educational improvement are former Hasidic students who were never provided a proper education. They care deeply about the Jewish community and about the education and welfare of children.
New Yorkers should be paying close attention for several reasons. Hasidic schools receive millions of taxpayer dollars. With students emerging without a high school education or even basic English language skills, their career prospects are limited and their families struggle from the start.
A parent’s right to choose to send a child to yeshiva is unquestionable, but there is no parental or communal right to deny children the tools necessary to survive and thrive.
It is no secret that thousands of young Hasidic families, primarily in the communities of Williamsburg, New Square and Kiryas Joel, depend on government aid to survive. Now that their children attend the same or similar schools, we can expect the cycle to continue for another generation.
Advocating for secular education is not about providing abstract information in the classroom. It’s about giving young Jewish men the means through which they can lead dignified lives and support their families, which is a tall order without proper education. They should have the options of joining the workforce and reap opportunities available to all U.S. citizens. Far from being a threat to the community, secular education is the only way to save the community.