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Parent Group Demands DOE Investigate Yeshivos for Failing to Teach Secular Subjects

“Enough is enough!” That’s the basic message of a letter sent by concerned parents, former teachers, and former yeshiva students to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and seven district superintendents in Brooklyn and Queens expressing upset over the lack of a substantial secular education in at least 39 yeshivas.

Fifty-two unidentified signatories added their names to the letter, noting that ultra-Orthodox schools, especially boys’ yeshivas, spend far less time on secular instruction compared to the time spent on religious education.

Organized by the nascent education advocacy group Yaffed, the letter asks officials to “investigate the quality of secular education and, in particular English instruction, at the listed yeshivas and to take steps to ensure that pupils at these yeshivas receive the essential and substantially equivalent education to which they are entitled.”

According to Yaffed’s press release, these haredi schools typically offer an average of one-and-a-half hours of general studies on a regular school day, and English and math is only taught until students reach the age of 13, at which point their secular education is terminated entirely. Some graduates have alleged this disproportionate education has led them to become professionally stunted, unable to obtain financial independence, or enter into successful careers.

Yaffed officials are pushing for extended instruction hours; expansion of secular instruction in other subject areas besides English and math; and continuing secular instruction even into high school, among other reforms.

In an effort to protect its supporters, Yaffed said it has withheld the names of the signatories and the targeted schools. The group has retained attorneys Normal Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum to represent their interests with the New York City Department of Education.

Update: DOE Promises Investigation

Upon receipt on Monday of a letter signed by 52 members of Brooklyn’s Jewish community charging that an alarming number of local yeshivas are in violation of state education laws by shortchange students on time spent on secular education, officials for the DOE say they will investigate the matter.

The Jewish Week reports that through an email response, DOE spokesman Harry Hatfield wrote, “We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that all students in New York receive an appropriate education, and we will investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention.”

41 Comments

  • 2. declasse' intellectual wrote:

    Opps: The real issue, when these students go out of the class room and have to earn a livelihood to support their family and with the rip off prices for housing, food etc in New York, how are they going to do it or are they just going to become welfare junkies–and what would occur when that runs out

  • 3. Milhouse wrote:

    The new Yevsektzia, yimach shmom. We stood up to Achaz and Hadrian, and we stood up to the Yevsektzia and Stalin; what makes them think we will be deterred by the likes of them? Where are their firing squads and gulags?

  • 5. Milhouse wrote:

    Parents have no business complaining. If they don’t want their children to have a kosher chinuch, let them send them elsewhere. Nobody has a right to send their child to a cheder and then demand that it change its nature. I don’t believe this group includes any parents of yeshivah students.

    • 6. Milhouse is wrong wrote:

      Your missing the point . Just as there is a standard for the quality of food and building structure of a school so too there are standards for the quality education a school can give If they want to operate as a school in ny

    • 7. c'mon! wrote:

      And why does a parent have a right towithhold an education from their child, causing a deficiency in their ability to support themselves in this tough economy?
      religious or not a parent has no business abusing a child and causing them major future damage for the sake of some supposedly religios ideal.

  • 8. SMH wrote:

    the yevonim of 2015

    its hashem who decides how much money you should make, you have plenty of frum people without education that are doing well and plenty of people with education that are not

    the people fighting for this are the ones that are not even frum that want to take down the frumkeit they want everyone to respect them but they have no respect for the frum community

    • 9. . wrote:

      “plenty who are doing well”
      But statistically most are on welfare.

  • 10. db2 wrote:

    antisemim.
    let them first check the muslims, who teach hate against the US and all of whom they term infidels. how foolish they are, do they think they are doing something purposeful? Silly.

  • 12. Milhouse wrote:

    One more thing: the expression “חייב אדם ללמד את בנו אומנות” does not seem to exist in any source of halacha.

    The gemara (kidushin 29a) does quote a braisa that האב חייב בבנו […] וללמדו אומנות, but Ein Mishpat gives no reference for this, which means that it’s not brought down in halacha. And at the end of Kiddushin the conclusion is מניח אני כל אומנות שבעולם ואיני מלמד את בני אלא תורה.

    Even according to those who hold that there is such an obligation, 1) it doesn’t apply until it’s needed, which is when the son has already learned Torah and is ready to get married; and 2) it doesn’t apply in a country with an extensive welfare and tzedaka system, where everybody is able to keep a family fed, clothed, and housed without resorting to crime. Lechol hadei’os there is no obligation to ensure that one’s son can make a high income and live a life of luxury.

    • 13. You're a leach! wrote:

      So youre of the opinion that we actively withhold a basic education from our defenseless children. With the mindset that ‘oh, we can always just resort to walfare and leach off of the government and our taxpayers…’
      shame on you sir!

    • 14. Clarification wrote:

      Though I agree with you on the subject, the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim (Alter Rebbe) 306:13 does write that it is a Mitzvah.

    • 16. Amused Observer wrote:

      I’m going to make a wild guess that you don’t think that not getting an education and working is just fine for other ethnicities. They’re just lazy leaches, right?

  • 17. morris wrote:

    What’s with these Yaffed people?
    The chiyuv is on the parents, not the yeshivas.

  • 18. Is this mesira? wrote:

    If they want better secular education, can’t they find a Yeshiva that will provide them with more secular education. Which Rav gave them a heter to go to secular courts?

    • 19. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, it is mesirah, and nobody gave them a heter, because they are ex-frum activists, just like the Yevsektzia, and don’t care about halacha at all.

  • 20. I know the people behind in wrote:

    Frustrated and from broken houses or where abused…
    Nebach…
    They stand no chance, no worries.

  • 21. רודפים! wrote:

    This is not Messirah, this is Redifah!!!

    As someone pointed out, if you don’t want a kosher education, go get what fits you.

    I for one want all my children to learn pure על טהרת הקודש!

    Remember the following:

    רבי מאיר אומר לעולם ילמד אדם את בנו אומנות נקיה וקלה ויתפלל למי שהעושר והנכסים שלו, שאין אומנות שאין בה עניות ועשירות, שלא עניות מן האומנות ולא עשירות מן האומנות אלא הכל לפי זכותו. רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר ראית מימיך חיה ועוף שיש להם אומנות והן מתפרנסין שלא בצער, והלא לא נבראו אלא לשמשני, ואני נבראתי לשמש את קוני, אינו דין שאתפרנס שלא בצער, אלא שהורעתי מעשה וקפחתי את פרנסתי. אבא גוריין איש צדיין אומר משום אבא גוריא, לא ילמד אדם את בנו חמר גמל קדר ספן רועה וחנוני, שאומנותן אומנות ליסטין… רבי נהוראי אומר מניח אני כל אומנות שבעולם ואיני מלמד את בני אלא תורה, שאדם אוכל משכרה בעולם הזה, והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא, ושאר כל אומנות אינן כן, כשאדם בו לידי חולי או לידי זקנה או לידי יסורין ואינו יכול לעסוק במלאכתו הרי הוא מת ברעב, אבל התורה אינה כן, אלא משמרתו מכל רע בנערותו, ונותנת לו אחרית ותקוה בזקנותו… (קידושין פב א)

    אמרה יונה לפני הקב”ה, רבונו של עולם יהיו מזונותי מרורין כזית ומסורין בידך, ואל יהיו מתוקין כדבש ותלוין ביד בשר ודם

  • 23. rivkie wrote:

    The Rebbe was against secular studies in general, as were all the Rebbeim. Parents who want such studies should make their own school but dont infiltrate the yeshivos with such goyishkeit

  • 24. Right Goal, Wrong Methods wrote:

    Great idea! Bring the secular Department of Education into this. They’re doing a great job with all the NYC public school, are they not? Look at everyone who comes out of the public schools. They’re so financially independent and well off!

  • 27. about time wrote:

    there is no excuse for the wide spread ignorance and lack of education in our communities

  • 29. There is a boss wrote:

    Just to point out these parents are former students of the yeshivos who for various reasons are no longer living the lifestyles of the yeshiva and want to take out their frustration on today’s students.

    Why are they afraid to say who they are? perhaps it would take a minute to see right thru their agenda!

  • 30. Missed the Point wrote:

    חייב אדם ללמד את בנו אומנות was historically implemented one year or so before getting married, where a boy was taught an אומנות נקיה וקלה – an easy and honest vocation. Quoting this חז”ל as though it mandates secular education from the earliest years of a child’s Chinuch is a perversion of the intent of those who said it.

    To be fair, there is nothing wrong with opening a vocational school for older bochurim / girls (preferably after they have concluded their studies in Yeshivah. In fact the Rebbe wrote this regarding Touro college. ואכ”מ להאריך). But to promote secular education in elementary and high schools and even in Yeshivah Gedolah’s against the well-known opposition of halachah under the guise of concern for Yiddishkeit is just another form of the Haskalah.

  • 32. truth is wrote:

    Yeshivahs take lots of government money. Lots. Therefore the government SHOULD impose their educational ststandards on all schools they help fund. If yeshivas can’t meet state or federal standards, or choose not to, no money. We as parents make our own choices based on Torah values and the government enforces its choices based on its values.
    So separate from the government coffers and no problems.

  • 33. What about the defense less babies aborted/murdererd every minute? wrote:

    Whoever u r millhouse u r 100% correct

  • 34. Half of you are talking like total idiots wrote:

    There is no case here.

    The law says private schools have to educate4 on par with public schools.

    Maybe you haven’t noticed but the most laughable aspect of this is that most public school students struggle to read and/or write.

    Yeshivos leave leave them in the dust in this regard.

    And all those Yeshivoh graduates who complain they cant read or write. Guess what!?! There are secular private school students who also can’t read or write, because they never cared to. Suddenly you care to, and instead of admitting you were an idiot who didn’t care to even pick up a MACHANAYIM book to advance your reading, you blame Yeshivos?!

    Those students who excel in reading and writing (math etc) are more often than not ahead of their schooling.

    Speakers of lashon horo, scoffers and mockers of the Rabbis generally struggle with reading and writing.

    Either way, these moisrim have no case.
    Yeshivoh students do better in secular subjects they’re not even taught than most public school kids who are taught these subjects exclusively.

    There are numerous [funny] videos online of people asking adult passersby basic questions they should have been educated about, and most don’t know.

    Many middle-class white private school graduates don’t know which US wars were which even though they have subjects dedicated almost exclusively to this.

    You get a better education in Yeshivoh without secular studies than you do in goyishe schools.

    Enjoy.

  • 35. דעת רבותינו wrote:

    Anyone who is of the opinion that this is or might be a good thing, please read up a little on the history of Chabad and of the Rabeim.

    This is the EXACT situation that our Rabeim put their all their matters aside, and fought against it with Mesiras Nefesh. They risked their lives for it in the most literal sense, they spent time in jail for it etc. etc. You can read the actual letters of the Rebbe RaShab, you can read the writings of the RaYatz about the stories of the Tzemach Tzedek etc.

    The question of learning Limudei Chol and the question of the Government intervening in our Chinuch are 2 total separate and distinct questions.

    We may have problems we may have big problems, whether our problems (education, jobs etc.) are better or worse than in the secular world is a matter of opinion or debate. But in our history when ever people wanted the government to interfere with our Chinuch and education, no matter what the intent of those seeking their interference or whether or not they had valid concerns, the results were ALWAYS disastrous, and our Rabeim fought it putting their own life and the entire Lubavitch movement on the line.

    So the stand of Chabad Lubavitch is clear: NEVER EVER get ANY government involved when you are trying to solve internal issues in the Chinuch of Tinokos Shel Beis Raban.

    If you agree with Lubavitch and its leaders or you disagree or if you celebrate the days that the Rabeim made it out of prison alive or not, that is a different story.

  • 36. Dovid wrote:

    As one that went to a Yeshivah that did not teach secular subjects, I find it very difficult to understand Halacha, and as a rabbi, it is a struggle to not embarrass myself in public.

    I have not made the same mistake for my own children, thet are being taught secular subjects, and I find that it helps them a lot to understand the Torah and the Gemarah.

  • 37. statement wrote:

    I dont undertand why is there a problem to begin with. the Rebbe said al taharas hakodesh. so this is what it’ll remain!

  • 39. Dangerous wrote:

    From the time the Yidden entered Eretz Yisroel, until this very day, each and every time Yidden went to goyim to help them with their gripe against other Yidden, the end result was disastrous for all Yidden–including those who solicited the goyim against Yidden. Hashem Yerachem.
    So, I say to the “whistle-blowers” here, “You need to study some Jewish history, and be wary of what you wish for, and what you turn to goyim for.”

  • 40. CH mother wrote:

    If I were charged with investigating this matter, I would do thus:
    Select a random group of 10-15 students from XYZ yeshiva. Interview them individually. Ask them what they learn, and farher them on their learning. Does the child know such and such from Jewish history? Can they read and understand Hebrew? Can they write a coherent short essay in Hebrew on some Jewish topic? Basically, I would want to know if the education the student is receiving is actually giving him some tools with which to think and communicate.

  • 41. CH mother... wrote:

    Some children who attend our chareidi yeshivos choose, as young adults, to continue their education in a secular field, and some of them have gone on to do well in law, medicine, and other professions. Some children move into business. Some become employees for others and earn modest incomes. And some end up on gov’t pgms. But the same can be said about students who attend public schools: some do well, some so-so, and some fail to get much education at all. So it seems the actual material taught is not so relevant. What IS relevant is whether any *learning* is really taking place. And, yes, I believe the wider society has some vested interest in ascertaining that in schools / yeshivas, learning is taking place.

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