New York State Should Recognize the Benefits Brought by Hasidic Schools

Last September, the New York Board of Regents amended the requirements imposed by the state on private and religious schools, with the aim of pushing Orthodox educational institutions to broaden their secular curricula. Ray Domanico examines the complex pedagogical and constitutional issues at play, and reports on his own experience visiting ḥasidic schools in Brooklyn. Among other issues, he addresses the complaint that such schools take public funds while ostensibly failing to educate students according to state-wide standards:

Yes, there is some public money going into [ḥaredi] schools; but no, most of it could not otherwise be used to support public-school budgets. If New York State and the federal government provide funding for various educational and support programs to private schools, they cannot exclude religious schools from participation. However, schools receiving these funds are required to conform to the conditions of the funding. Failure to comply should have consequences. If the schools are using city-funded childcare credits inappropriately, that is a reason to tighten the regulations on how that money can be used by eligible families, not a rationale for overhauling the schools’ curricula.

While their detractors claim that the most Orthodox schools contribute to poverty by failing to educate their students properly, or only cultivate members of narrow and parochial community, Domanico sees benefits that come from the ḥasidic way of life:

Every community has failings. But closed communities also create and grow social strength for their members. Sociologists refer to this as bonding social capital, the social capital within a group, or “people like us.” It is distinguished from bridging social capital, which is between social groups. The two types of social capital are not in conflict; both produce public goods, and bonding social capital can be the forerunner of bridging social capital.

A main argument against yeshivas is that they deny their graduates the skills needed to succeed materially. But that criticism avoids the economic benefits that the tight community bonds found in these communities provide to its members.

Domanic concludes:

The Board of Regents should resist the urge to be heavy-handed in enforcing the [regulations governing religious schools]. Any expectation of activists that these schools exactly mirror the curriculum currently in New York’s public schools will almost certainly be unmet. Further, the value of that public-school curriculum must be viewed in light of the actual outcomes of many public schools, as well as the intrinsic value present in the religious instruction in the yeshivas. . . . The ongoing low performance of numerous public schools and the state and city’s insufficient response to those concerns also raise legitimate questions about the current focus on yeshivas.

Read more at Manhattan Institute

More about: American Jewry, Haredim, Jewish education, Religious Freedom

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security