Lawsuit Seeks to Shutter Chasidic Schools in Quebec

Yochanan Lowen, 36, a former member of the Montreal Chasidic community, is suing the Quebec government for not rigorously enforcing its educational curriculum standards on private Chasidic schools, whom he calls ‘illegal’ and blames for his ‘substandard’ education.

From VIN News:

A man who grew up in a Hasidic community from Boisbriand, Quebec, is suing the education ministry, the department of youth protection, the school board and two Jewish schools alleging that he is not able to function in society because he received less-than-standard education.

CJAD News reports Yochanan Lowen, 36, is suing for $1.2 million dollars for damages and interest.

Lowen moved to Quebec from the U.K. when he was 10 years old in 1988. He attended the Yeshiva Beth Yuheda and the Oir Hachaim d’Tash rabbinical college – two schools which he claims are illegal and still open.

Lowen states he never received the standard Quebec curriculum because those schools are centered on Jewish education. His lawyer claims that because of this, Lowen doesn’t know how to speak French or English, doesn’t know how to count or read and cannot function in society.

TVA Nouvelles reports Max Lieberman, a spokesman for the Hasidic community in Outremont, says he does not personally know Lowen, but says it looks likes Lowen is “trying to gain sympathy by saying he was abused, but it is wrong. We educate our children differently from other children in Quebec, but it achieves the same goals. Our children are doing well. Our lives reflect our success. We have companies and are productive citizens. How could we do this if we were ignorant? “

The lawsuit says the education system intentionally violated his right to education according to Quebec law. He faults the education ministry in Quebec for failing to close the illegal schools.

The School Board of the Lordship-des-Mille-Iles has agreed to briefly comment on the case. The school board is also covered by the notice, as Mr. Lowen residing in its territory when he was in school.

“It should be recalled that the responsibility of educating a child belongs to his parents. It is their job to make the inclusion of their child in a school of a school board or a private school. A school board provides educational services to students duly enrolled by their parents. In this sense, the CSSMI has no responsibility in the situation of Mr. Lowen,” said Jonathan Desjardins Mallette, secretary and director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Commission Scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles.

Lowen left the Hasidic community in 2010 and currently works as a Jewish religious instructor at a legal school.


  • 3. Nebach? wrote:

    His lawyer claims that because of this, Lowen doesn’t know how to speak French or English, doesn’t know how to count or read and cannot function in society.
    Lowen left the Hasidic community in 2010 and currently works as a Jewish religious instructor at a legal school.

    Seems like he is ok

  • 4. SW wrote:

    doesnt quite make sense. And if it doesnt make sense, then it smirks of a way to get money. Its a character quirk. There are plenty of guys who had non quality level yeshiva experience who made something of themselves. Sorry that he has to make a chillul HaShem in order to get money. These days we cannot afford for another yid to go against us. Sad. And he does have a job, too .

  • 5. Amazing and Brave! wrote:

    Good for him! Finally! It is about time that a standard curriculum is implemented into every school, private or public. I wish I could do this to the schools here in Toronto.

  • 10. Thinkster wrote:

    I guess some people blame everything but themselves. Shame on him. What a joke.

  • 11. maybe wrote:

    I don’t know what his true motivations are, but maybe he just wants to raise awareness to the fact that some people have no access to basic literacy and numeracy skills. I don’t see this as a bad thing!!

  • 12. Chossid wrote:

    Is he still frum? If not I sense a personal vendetta against the community. Having a solid education is important but is everything the communities fault?

  • 14. montrealer wrote:

    this guy is a nut
    he and his wife left tosh for montreal and then freid out.
    he used to hang around the lubavitch community for a little while.
    he and his are angry for whatever reason.
    this has nothing to do with the level of frum education and everything to do with a couple of people trying to deal with their issues.
    yitamu chato’im v’loi choitim

  • 15. Education wrote:

    1) There many successful individuals out there in the business world that studied all their lives in Yeshiva. There are also cases of people who had a solid secular education yet failed in the business world.

    2) For someone that does not know how to count, yet filing a law suite worth 1.2 million seems odd.

    3) Money will not fix the “problem” unless he goes back to “school”, which i doubt he will.

  • 16. reader wrote:

    To all the comments claiming that plenty of people “make it” in business: those that are successful without a decent education are exceptional. For the average, appropriate education is a necessity. Just take a look around this community and observe the disproportionate number of men who struggle to make a living. Perhaps this fellow does have an ax to grind with the chasidic community. However, this does not diminish his claim. He deserved basic literacy as does everyone in this community- boys included.

  • 19. Rebecca wrote:

    There are ppl with a DEC or degree who can’t find a decent job.
    He’s a teacher.

  • 20. ARI wrote:

    The fact remains that he did not receive a proper education like he was entitled to.
    This is something that we should implement into the schools here in crown heights where not only the girls get a proper education where as the boys are left behind with a substandard education and then have to spend double the amount of time trying to catch up to their peers in college, i feel like not only should we learn a lesson from this and try to educate our children with the way of the world. it also says in Torah that a father has an obligation to teach his children a craft unto witch they can support a wife and children. I wish this man all the luck and hope he wins this lawsuit.

    • 21. Milhouse wrote:

      You are openly rebelling against the Rebbe, in his own shchuna. Consider that the Rebbe was a lot smarter than you, and he insisted that the schools not do this. What’s more, the schools are still under his authority, not yours, so they will continue to listen to him and not you. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

  • 22. Toronto wrote:

    To number 5, the schools in Toronto have an amazing curriculum, what exactly are you talking about?

  • 23. Chosid wrote:

    Lubavitch history is full of incidents where the Rabaiim FOUGHT like lions with MESIRAS NEFESH to maintain the age old method of Chinuch (yes. that “outdated” “old-fashioned” “irrelevant” “unrealistic” chinuch).
    I heard “if they would be alive today they would say differently. Check the many sichos of the 50’s where the Rebbe very clearly addresses that.
    Let’s not let the Rebbe down

  • 24. Why can't reading and math be taught? wrote:

    Why can’t reading English and/or French be taught using Jewish subjects to yeshiva students? Rashi brings words in Old French-these could be used to learn some French and to learn word tenses.Counting is abundant-with Shabbos being the seventh day, the length of holidays, sefira, etc. Measurements in the Torah can also be used to teach math.Secular learning can in some ways complement Torah learning. The physical can be made spiritual.

  • 25. to number 24 wrote:

    that is the stupidest thing i ever heard, rashi french, the entire point of rashi is to explain to a french 5 yr old, now that we have translations learning french(or rather old french) is useless/no point. im sure G-d wouldrather us learning torah than old french.

  • 26. YMSP wrote:

    The moser/nut/lochem neged Toras Hashem is not worth commenting about.

    What’s shocking is the take of many commentators. Are they frum? Do they follow the Rebbe at all? More basically, have they given one second of thought to the issue?

    Torah has kept the Jewish people going, starting with Torah true education. By contrast, those who sought a new way, including Jewish groups who thought that they know better, have all disappeared. If their names live on at all. they do so in infamy.

    Anyone who spends 10 seconds reading the Rebbe’s letters knows that, on a very basic level, the Rebbe knows far more about practical life than any poster on this board (to put it mildly). The challenges of not having a secular education were far greater when the Rebbe wrote and spoke against it. The problems associated with attending university were, by contrast, considerably less (again putting it mildly).

    This truth is also reflected in the world. Forbes Magazine and other publications have published major pieces on the irrelevance and unimportance of college today. They write how business experience and practical training (i.e. running a business or working in a field) and networking are far more valuable and that college degrees are rapidly becoming worthless.

    The Mitteler Rebbe writes at the beginning of Shaarei Teshuva that a misa ruchnis is far worse than a misa gashmis. Those who seek to rip out the heart and soul of the next generation should at least own up to the fact that they are doing just that. (This sounds like a harsh comment, but it would have been said by the meekest of rabbonim 80 years ago.)

    Btw, for what it’s worth, I had a forced high school secular education until grade 10 or so (stuck pages of Talmud into the secular textbooks and was, in general, an all around, albeit low key, brat) and now have to compete in writing and program development against PhDs, some of whom often ask my advice. When asked where my training comes from (because they appreciate the advice), I tell them that it’s from a rabbinlcal seminary. They accept and appreciate that. Many of my friends who are in business, and even professionals, experience the same thing on a regular basis.

    Of course, if I was a bitter soul who spent all my time going to the media after posthumously suing my grandmother for having forced me to eat peanut butter as a child, maybe I’d be more successful….

    (Disclaimer: My grandmother A”H did not actually force me to eat peanut butter and the point was rhetorical.)


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