As Was the Case 80 Years Ago, the Battle for Jewish Schools Centers on Checking the Power of Government

Aug. 13 2019

Last fall, New York State’s education commissioner released a series of guidelines for private elementary schools that would force most Jewish schools to abandon much of their religious curriculum. While a group of Jewish, Catholic, and independent private schools successfully challenged the guidelines in court, the state has now submitted the same requirements to the Board of Regents, hoping to have them made official regulations. Marvin Schick, the president of one of the schools involved in the litigation, notes a telling moment in the deliberations:

At a court hearing this past April 15, a lawyer for the New York State Education Department . . . claimed the rules were imposed for the “voiceless child who can be conscripted at his parents will” to attend a private school. Four days later, the court declared the guidelines “null and void.” But what the court could not nullify is the bureaucratic mindset that denigrates parental choice and characterizes as conscription the act of choosing to pay for a child’s private or religious education.

Schick looks back to a similar legal battle that began in 1939, when the New York State Board of Regents issued a set of regulations that seemed targeted specifically at Jewish religious schools. Then the state’s 26 yeshivas together submitted a brief to the board which, drawing on the language of a 1926 Supreme Court ruling, summed up the case potently: “The child is not the mere creature of the state, and its parents have the right and duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Schick adds:

The argument presented [by the yeshivas] in July 1942 remains true today, as is attested by the professional success attained by yeshiva graduates and their regular admission to first-rate graduate and professional schools. The ḥasidic community has an entrepreneurial spirit that has created thousands of successful businesses in New York and tens of thousands of jobs for New Yorkers of all backgrounds.

As is true of all human endeavors, the yeshiva system has a measure of failure and room for improvement. None of this supports those who believe the worst about yeshivas. Critics of the yeshivas are likely more offended by our continued success attracting students seeking a religious framework for their lives than by educational failures. Consider the regents’ 1939 resolution. It was as concerned with a morning “session in a foreign language” as it was with there being “only an afternoon session in English.” Given the stellar academic performance of yeshivas, it is fair to ask whether the goal was as much to achieve a de-emphasis on Jewish studies as it was to achieve an increase in secular instruction.

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More about: Education, Freedom of Religion, Jewish education, New York

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy