A three-year investigation into ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in New York culminated in a report published last Thursday that revealed that 15 of 30 yeshivas did not allow education authorities to carry out inspections.
According to this report, the city launched a probe into its yeshiva system in 2015 following a complaint by the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) activist group. The group claimed that 39 Orthodox institutions were failing to meet standards set by state law requiring private schools to offer a curriculum “substantially equivalent” to that of the public system.
New York media came down hard on the city’s mayor to Bill de Blasio, above, accusing him of being soft on the schools. But speaking at a press conference, he said that city officials had “engaged in a dialogue with a number of schools” that was “very productive”. He said that the media was looking for “instant gratification”.
New York City schools chancellor Richard A Carranza issued the report that said the Department of Education “has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools” but 15 refused to cooperate.
In response, YAFFED founder Naftuli Moster told the New York Times that it was:
Disappointing, but not surprising. Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to conclude there is both a lack of secular instruction going on in these schools and that these schools believe they are above the law.
In a scathing editorial late last month, the New York Post accused de Blasio of running a “fake probe”. It said in an editorial:
Students leave the schools deprived of the basic skills they’ll need in a secular world. If City Hall truly wanted to make sure these kids are getting a proper education, it would’ve finished the probe long ago.
The New York Daily News ran a similar editorial this month in which it it described the investigation as a “shonda” – Yiddish for scandal.
De Blasio told reporters:
There’s two sides to every story. We have 15 schools where we went in, a lot of work was done, clearly there was room for improvement but I have to be straightforward and say there’s room for improvement in a lot of traditional schools, too.
YAFFED recently launched a lawsuit alleging that an amendment written by State Senator Simcha Felder, who represents heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, unconstitutionally exempts yeshivas from the same oversight as other, non-religious, schools.