Frequently Asked Questions


  • Why do you call yourselves “Young Advocates For Fair Education”?
    • It is mostly young Hassidic and former Hassidic individuals who are realizing the adverse effects of a poor education in today’s society. YAFFED is a grassroots organization led by graduates of various Hassidic and ultra-Orthodox schools, that aims to work together with these young individuals to bring about a lasting reform.
  • What does YAFFED hope to achieve?
    • YAFFED hopes to bring about a change in attitude toward general education within ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic communities. YAFFED wants these religious institutions to understand that education is a Jewish value, and hopes to work together with community leaders to improve curricula in compliance with New York State law.
  • How does YAFFED hope to accomplish this goal?
    • YAFFED will begin by educating community leaders and school administrators as well as the greater community about the laws regarding education and about the necessity and value of education in our society. YAFFED hopes to bring community leaders, educational organizations, and governmental officials to the table and work out a curriculum that is satisfactory to all parties involved.
  • How long will it take to achieve these goals?
    • This is not expected to be an easy task. There is a tremendous resistance to change within the ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic communities. However, we anticipate these difficulties and will work incrementally meeting smaller, short term goals at first, and achieving a complete success over a longer period of time.
  • Why is the community reluctant to provide a quality education?
    • The community is fearful of secular influences. However, some degree of secular education is quite valuable, and we believe that a general education would not jeopardize religious stability, but on the contrary, would enhance the lives of these ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic individuals.
  • Is there a basis for the fear that is at the root of the attitude of neglect toward education?
    • There is no basis for this fear at all. The United States maintains the separation of church and state and so any law instated is done with regard to this deference for religion. Various cases have been brought to the attention of the courts in which the judicial decision reaffirmed the value it places on religious separation, but at the same time, the courts have worked to guarantee that education is provided to children in the United States.
  • Why do Hassidic children need to be educated if most of them end up living in the communities of their upbringing which would seem to require very little nonreligious education?
    • Although most of these individuals remain active members of their communities, many do want to get jobs outside the community, where education is not simply valued, but is necessary. The lack of a general education has caused many bright and capable individuals to seek out low-wage/labor-intensive employment so as to be able to support their families although they could be capable of so much more. Education would not only help them gain better employment, but it would also benefit the broader community as they take on positions that can help those around them. A case in point is Kiryas Joel, the poorest municipality in the United States. Instead of a significant part of the community being on welfare and other government programs, a better education would allow these individuals to be contributing members of society.
  • Putting the law aside, what are the human rights implications of the lack of a general education?
    • Education is not just about gaining knowledge; it also helps achieve an understanding and tolerance toward other members of the human race, a concept largely absent in the curriculum currently taught in Yeshivas where the focus is on classic Judaic texts as Talmud and Tanach. Furthermore, depriving individuals from an education that is standard in this country is a violation of human rights as it hinders these individuals’ ability to think and express themselves freely.
  • Does the government require that schools teach certain subjects?
    • Yes. The list can be found on the Department of Education’s website. It includes English, math, reading, writing, music, art, geography, U.S. and N.Y.S. history, science, physical education, and more. While public schools are more heavily regulated than private schools, the guidelines listed above do apply to private schools, and religious institutions have the same legal and moral obligations as other private schools.
      You can follow these links for more information:
      http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/RegPrivSchl/newyork.html
      http://www2.ed.gov/PDFDocs/PrivSchl.pdf
  • Who is supposed to enforce these laws?
    • The Department of Education appoints district superintendents who are required to ensure that all schools within their district, public and non-public, follow state guidelines. However, as nonpublic schools, religious institutions are exempt from state testing and from much of the regulation that takes place in public schools. Therefore, while it is legally mandated that they provide a substantially equivalent education to that offered by public schools in their district, there are few checks in place to guarantee that this is being done. Additionally, when the government provides funding, it is entitled a larger degree of oversight to see to it that those funds are being used properly. However, since these schools generally receive little if any government funding, there is less opportunity for the government to oversee these schools.
  • Is the larger Jewish community aware of this problem?
    • Unfortunately, the larger Jewish community is not as aware as it should be. In general, the larger Jewish community does value education; however, due to the insular nature of these ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic communities, those not raised within them tend to be unaware of their goings on.