There are times where patience is a virtue. But patience has its limits. When government officials are blatantly failing in their responsibilities and allowing tens of thousands of children to be denied an education year after year after year, it is time to take drastic action.
More than six years ago, 52 Yeshiva graduates and parents courageously came forward to file a complaint with the NYC Department of Education, alleging that the 39 Yeshivas they or their children attended were not providing a basic education to their students, as required by law.
New York State law requires all non-public schools to provide instruction that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that of public school. The law goes on to list subjects that must be taught, including “arithmetic, reading, spelling, writing, the English language, geography, United States history, civics, hygiene, physical training, the history of New York state and science.”
Yet in recent years, dozens of individuals who have attended ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Yeshivas have risked everything and come forward, alleging that their Yeshivas barely taught any English and arithmetic. Science and social studies is non-existent in the majority of Hasidic boys’ schools. Hasidic boys’ high schools tend to offer ZERO secular instruction. No English, no math, no science, and no social studies. (Girls’ schools tend to provide better instruction.)
New York City’s Department of Education, under the direct leadership of Mayor de Blasio, has largely stonewalled the victims who came forward, and dragged out the investigation for years. A major injustice happening in plain sight took them four and a half years to investigate. In December of 2019, the NYC DOE finally released a report that concluded that 26 of 28 Yeshivas they investigated did not meet the minimum standards of instruction. And that is just a sample. It is our estimation that there are approximately 50 Hasidic Yeshivas in New York City alone that are not meeting those minimum standards.
Since releasing their report, the city has taken no action to remediate or compel compliance in these failing Yeshivas, allowing tens of thousands of children to continue to suffer educational neglect in its worst form.
Now we are entering the 7th school year since that investigation first began. It is also the last opportunity for Mayor de Blasio to do the right thing as mayor.
De Blasio must take action now. He has no excuse to continuously allow for so many children to suffer.
THAT is why we took out a full-page ad in the NY Times to urge the mayor to take action immediately. The ad was generously supported by a funder who attended a Haredi (but non-Hasidic) Yeshiva many decades ago. Non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas have long provided more secular education than their Hasidic counterparts. This was particularly true 50-70 years ago. Things have really deteriorated, especially in Hasidic boys’ schools where secular education is practically non-existent.
Here’s what the funder, who requested anonymity, had to say:
I have been following this saga for years. I am sad to see elected officials play politics with the futures of these children. Even if it were one child who was being denied an education, it would be an outrage, but here we’re talking about tens of thousands of children whose futures are being robbed from them. These are bright children who could develop medical breakthroughs, solve environmental problems, and change the world. But they are being denied a basic education.
I was fortunate to attend an ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva back when the secular education was still decent. But things have deteriorated drastically since then, especially for Hasidic boys who now get little or no secular education.
I am happy to partner with Yaffed to advocate for change, and continue to urge the officials of New York to do the right thing. Imagine if it was your children. How can we let this happen?
We are grateful to this supporter and all our supporters and allies who are in this fight with us.
We urge you too to join us, and take action today. Contact NYC officials and urge them to enforce education standards in these Yeshivas today!