The Current Fight over Orthodox Schooling in New York State, and Its Sordid Backstory

In 2015, complaints from a group of former students of ḥasidic schools claiming that they had been denied proper educations prompted official investigations into over a dozen of these institutions in New York City. Thereafter, both the state and city governments launched their own probes into the curricula and quality of instruction at Orthodox private schools. The issue also led to debate in the state legislature and a lawsuit in defense of these schools. At the heart of the matter is an 1894 statue requiring private schools to provide educations “substantially equivalent” to those offered in public schools. Menachem Wecker explains that the law originated with a New England brahmin named Joseph Hodges Choate, who once told a group of Irish Americans to go back to their country:

Choate, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, was from Salem, Massachusetts, a member of the same family whose name has survived on the Choate Rosemary Hall School in Connecticut and the Choate Hall & Stewart law firm in Boston. . . . Choate was known for his “lasting distrust of the New York Irish as a political force,” as D.M. Marshman, Jr. wrote in a 1975 American Heritage profile of the man.

[In 1894], Choate, speaking at a Republican meeting at Cooper Union on the topic of “Tammany Rule,” declared, “We are tired of being submitted to the despotic control of a handful of foreigners who have no stake in the soil.” . . . In May of that year, Choate, then sixty-two, was elected president of the New York State Constitutional Convention, [which addressed, inter alia, issues of church and state]. At the time, . . . . a Protestant minister was quoted as saying: “They [the Catholics] only teach the children in their parochial schools to sing ‘Hail Marys.’ That doesn’t benefit them any. . . . We don’t want such systems in our public schools.”

The convention’s work continued for months. It concluded with a compromise between the aims of Catholics, who hoped to secure funding for their schools and charities, and those who opposed all such support from tax dollars. The Catholics got funding for their charities but not their schools. . . . At the same time, the state also added to its education law the requirement, [supported by Choate], that the non-public schools offer an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of the public schools.

Given [the society-wide] decline in religious observance, some see the [current] New York probe of yeshivas in the context of broader infringements by secular or liberal society on traditional religious institutions. In that analysis, the current regulatory effort to evaluate the educational offerings of ḥasidic schools seems like just the latest development in a long government push against minority religious education. In 1894, authorities took away funding. In 2019, they’re sending inspectors into schools to check up on them.

Read more at Education Next

More about: Day schools, Freedom of Religion, Jewish education, New York, Ultra-Orthodox


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University