Roughly 57,000 students attend ultra-Orthodox Jewish yeshivas in New York City. Yeshiva is a Jewish institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and the Torah. The studying is usually done through daily shiurim (lectures or classes) as well as in study pairs called ḥavrutas (Aramaic for "friendship" or "companionship”). Most Jewish boys are expected to become rabbis one day, but the truth is that’s not even possible, nor do they all want to become rabbis in the future. Jewish children are studying religious texts most of the time and these schools have a negligible share of English, mathematics and history in the curriculum.
The NY post reports: “In April, state Senator Simcha Felder(D – Brooklyn)...” [elected as a Democrat, but immediately announced he remains with Republicans] “...refused to sign off on the state budget unless yeshivas, which accept millions of dollars in government funding, were given more autonomy over curricula… It was announced on Wednesday that Felder secured some $200,000 in discretionary funds for “education access” programs for Agudath Israel, the lobbying force that helped fight state efforts to impose instructional standards on yeshivas.” That means that there could not be control over those schools and they can indoctrinate boys and girls with “holy texts” even more.
Advocates who think Jewish children are being harmed by these kinds of quasi schools are devastated by the news.
“[They] are being denied an education,” said Naftuli Moster, executive director of YAFFED, an organization that advocates to improve secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. “The main reason has to do with [yeshiva administrators] saying there’s no time to learn stuff [students] won’t use in life — especially boys, who are [expected] to be rabbis.”
Moster added that there are other issues at hand as well: “There are certain things in science and history that contradict portions of the Torah — fossils, dinosaurs.”
Around age 13, boys enter yeshiva in lieu of high school, where 12-hour days largely focus on the religious texts of the Torah and Talmud. (Girls, who aren’t required to learn Torah, receive a more well-rounded education.) “The other 95 percent (boys who don’t succeed to be rabbis) are doomed to a life of struggle and poverty,” said Moster. The secular education these students receive is equivalent to approximately a seventh grade education.
According to a recent 24/7 Wall Street report, the Hasidic village of New Square, in Rockland County, is the poorest in the state — with a 70 percent poverty rate. “You have tens of thousands of families who depend on government assistance,” said Moster. “It’s a double whammy, as these yeshivas get your tax dollars, too.” He said that the new legislation will create more problems, adding, “The kids are going to suffer.”
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