“A lawsuit filed Monday argues that New York is illegally looking the other way when it comes to ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, loosening restrictions that will ultimately leave students without a basic knowledge of English, math and science.
The lawsuit, filed slightly more than a month before the first day of school, is the latest action in a years-long debate over how to regulate yeshivas, the private religious schools that focus primarily on studying Jewish texts.
Under state law, nonpublic schools have to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools, including instruction in English, math, United States history and science. But in April, Simcha Felder, a state senator whose Brooklyn district is heavily Orthodox, held up a state budget deal until the Legislature agreed to an exemption for yeshivas, freeing them from some of the state’s stricter regulations.
“The law is unconstitutional because it’s tailor-made for Orthodox yeshivas, so for a religious group,” said Naftuli Moster, a yeshiva graduate who founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, the group that filed the lawsuit. “That’s a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
The article continues here: www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/nyregion/yeshivas-lawsuit-secular-education.html
YAFFED Files Federal Lawsuit Against New York Governor, NYS Education Commissioner, Board of Regents Chancellor Alleging Unconstitutional “Felder Amendment” Denies Yeshiva Students Right to Basic Education
[You can read the full details of the filed lawsuit here: www.yaffed.org/lawsuit1]
Commentary by Robert Rhodes follows:
“The press release and the article in the New York Times discuss the cost to students, and the cost to New York of an educational system that deliberately fails to educate male yeshiva students. Here I would like to discuss the most unfortunate impact of the Hasidic leadership on democracy in both Rockland County and New York State.
For years, former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, (now safely housed in federal prison) did whatever he wanted in Ramapo. He knew that if he gave our Hasidic builders whatever they wanted he would be reelected, no matter how irresponsible his leadership might be. And he had an ever-obedient town board.
When his fraudulent manipulation of our town finances finally caught up with St. Lawrence he left in disgrace, but he left behind the same corrupt political system that had promoted and protected him. Our town finances are such a mess that Ramapo no longer has even a poor financial rating. As a result we cannot go to the market to borrow money. Our books seem to be so riddled with mistakes and probably outright fraud that state mandated audited financial records for 2015, 2016, and 2017 have not been released. Today, an unhappy group of certified public accountants is still trying to provide us with an honest report. We also suspect that state law enforcement is involved in this effort.
We should remember that for years St. Lawrence was his own director of finance. He then passed his baton on to Nat Oberman, an elderly gentleman. Then Mona Montal his director of purchasing added director of finance to her titles. After presiding over our financial mess, she was rewarded with a new job title and became the assistant to Michael Specht, our new town supervisor.
Melissa Reimer the whistle blower who went to the FBI with the original charges that led to St. Lawrence’s conviction was suspended for about four years with pay and finally fired.
And what was Michael Specht’s role during these remarkable years? First, he was the town attorney who represented Ramapo in the kangaroo court that convicted Melissa on trumped up charges. Her lawsuit against St. Lawrence, convicted town attorney Michael Klein, and receiver of taxes Nat Oberman is going to cost Ramapo millions of dollars when she finally gets her day in court. More significantly Michael Specht was the town attorney for Ramapo’s notorious zoning board of appeals for years while it never saw a well-connected application it didn’t love. Specht’s job was to make sure the public record for variances was not so terrible it couldn’t survive challenges in court.
So today we still have the same Hasidic builders and slumlords running our town and most of the same sorry crew down at town hall. We should make it clear that almost all the civil servants in Ramapo are hardworking and honest people who never supported our corrupt leaders and have confidentially given Preserve Ramapo valuable information throughout the years. We have passed this information on to the FBI and much of it has not yet become public.
At the state level there is little that we need to add regarding the corrupt crew that surrounds Governor Andrew Cuomo. But we must recognize that he ignored the rape of the East Ramapo educational system for many years and finally did as little as possible to support our public-school students. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He is an opportunist who takes polls and then becomes a champion of the people while carefully doing nothing that might alienate his Hasidic supporters.
YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education) deserves your support. Go to YAFFED’s website, www.yaffed.com, and donate to this small courageous nonprofit organization. You might also request a copy of their 74 page-report NONEQUIVALENT: The State of Education in New York City’s Hasidic Yeshivas (September 2017). The research that led to this report provides the basis for YAFFED’s lawsuit.”
Robert I. Rhodes, Chairman, Preserve Ramapo