New York State’s New Curriculum Requirements Threaten Orthodox Schools and Religious Freedom

Out of concern that some Orthodox schools are providing inadequate secular education, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has attempted to issue stricter rules governing the curricula of nonpublic schools. Moshe Hauer and Michael A. Helfand do not object in principle to the state taking a more active role in supervising the education of ḥasidic children, but they find the most recent set of regulations concerning:

The government, of course, has a responsibility to ensure that all minors receive adequate education so that they can be full and productive members of democratic society. But in fulfilling this responsibility, the state needs to make sure that its rules do not overreach. It needs to take adequate account of the distinctive dual-curriculum model of Orthodox Jewish schools and respect the religious way of life that these schools perpetuate. New York’s proposed new rules fail in this regard, and would undermine the ability of some Orthodox Jewish communities to pass down their faith to the next generation.

The proposed list of required areas of study goes beyond general subjects to include courses in physical education and “kindred subjects,” patriotism and citizenship, highway safety and traffic regulation, and fire and arson prevention. While these are all valuable subjects, this list veers from the core requirements that ought to be legally necessary to allow a school to keep its doors open. And it sets a dangerous precedent: if Jewish schools are to embrace government oversight to ensure substantial equivalency, they need guarantees, built into the regulations themselves, that future bureaucrats will not simply continue adding to this list, using this proposed framework to incorporate even more peripheral pedagogical requirements into the substantial equivalency inquiry.

Some Jewish schools, as well as the people who teach and learn in them, don’t conform to the images of education in the minds of most 21st-century Americans. But our society should support these minority communities in their pursuit of their way of life. Majoritarian notions can all too easily, without a proper check, produce assessments that fail to acknowledge the benefits of an integrated educational program.

Read more at First Things

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

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy