Simply put, YAFFED’s goal is to ensure that every child attending Hasidic and Haredi yeshivas receives at least a basic general education, as is required by New York State’s “substantial equivalency” law. A basic general education should consist of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and other required subjects.
YAFFED does not take a position on whether or not private schools of any kind should be eligible to receive public funding. However, we believe that schools depriving their students of a basic education should not receive funds intended for education-related services.
No. YAFFED believes the problem is mainly concentrated in Hasidic and Haredi yeshivas. However, all private schools are required to provide at least a basic education. This is not only the position of YAFFED, but that of New York State law for over 100 years.
At heart, there is a misconception among some in the community that secular studies are in conflict with Orthodox Jewish teachings. This may be due to their misinterpretation of the text “and you shall study the Torah day and night.” To some, this implies that Torah should be studied day and night to the exclusion of all other studies.
However, the Jewish tradition also mandates that “every father must teach his son a trade,” and nearly all of the great Rabbis of the past were well educated in secular subjects. And yeshivas outside the Hasidic and Haredi communities already provide an excellent secular education to their students. Indeed, Hasidic and Haredi girls schools generally provide instruction in basic secular subjects, as do several Hasidic and Haredi boys schools.
Within the Hasidic community, many parents and former Yeshiva students are extremely frustrated by the education they received, but they are often reluctant to speak out and demand change for fear of reprisal. These parents face an unfortunate reality: so-called community leaders have a long history of threatening livelihoods, intimidation and expelling children from Yeshiva when parents speak out against the status quo. Through YAFFED’s efforts, some parents and former students have felt empowered to demand change, but they still rely on government authorities to stand up for the children’s rights since they do not feel empowered to do so on their own.
While public schools might seem like a viable alternative to someone outside the community, sending a child to public school is simply not an option for Hasidic and Haredi parents given social and religious realities. In any case, New York State law requires even non-public school children to receive a substantial education and it guarantees that the Department of Education will enforce education standards. That being the case, parents should not be forced to send their children to public school in order for their children to receive an education required by law.
YAFFED is a grassroots organization founded in 2012 by recent graduates of various Hasidic and Haredi yeshivas that did not provide a basic general education. This problem, sadly, has affected generations of students who have attended these yeshivas. The goal of our organization is to make sure more children do not fall through the cracks – and we welcome support from people of all ages.