Why Orthodox Parents Keep Their Children in “Failing” Schools

At the end of June, New York City educational authorities announced that an investigation had found that eighteen ḥasidic schools had failed to meet educational requirements. But if these schools are really so bad—asks Frieda Vizel, herself a former member of the Satmar ḥasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—why do parents keep enrolling their children? There are many reasons, she contends, beginning with the fact that, in a community where families are large, the schools “take on the task of easing the burden for parents” as well as “seek to address students’ emotional needs.” And that is sometimes hard for outsiders to appreciate:

It is an irony of the current debate that liberals who believe in strong social safety nets, who would balk at the assertion that a person should be judged by his wealth or career attainment, and who once celebrated the maxim made famous by Hillary Clinton, “It takes a village to raise a child,” seem incapable of appreciating those same values when they come from religious communities.

But the critical reports from the New York Times and from the Department of Education don’t focus on the ways these schools serve as vital organs to ḥasidic communities. Instead, they focus on what the ḥasidic schools don’t do: they do not prepare the boys to be efficient workers and reliable consumers inside of mainstream, secular economic arrangements. And this is true. Ḥasidic schools don’t do the kind of career prep that can help students become future brand managers, corporate tax consultants, or equity administrators. It seems that in the wider world, people are so used to conflating education with economic preparation—because this is what modern education has become—that they assume that ḥasidic schools seek to do the same.

Yet, Vizel goes on to explain, most graduates of these schools immediately enter the workforce, and New York’s Ḥasidim usually provide opportunities for young people to learn on the job in family businesses. As for the discontents:

All of this doesn’t mean that ḥasidic parents don’t have criticisms of their sons’ schools. In fact, I believe the debate over ḥasidic education stems, in part, from internal frustrations. As someone who is on the periphery, parents talk to me candidly about the things that bother them. Plenty have complaints about education, as parents will have anywhere, and I hear especially about the state of “English” for boys. . . . But at the same time, these parents value the many things they do get from the schools, and would by no means want the good to go away.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hasidim, Jewish education, New York City, New York Times

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7