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Report: Orthodox Jewish Schools Elude Curriculum Rules

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 04:51 PM

DNAInfo reporter Sonja Sharp explains lack of secular instruction in Jewish parochial schools

A series of reports by DNAinfo.com has lifted the curtain on what is not taught in the Jewish parochial schools, namely core secular subjects like English and math.

According to reporter Sonja Sharp, many of these schools receive federal, state and city aid, in the form of free- and reduced-lunch programs, educational materials, as well as federal Title I and Title III money for low-income and English learner students. Yet they are not following regulations that require them to offer "equivalency of instruction" in basic general subjects such as American history and science.

The Yeshiva system in New York City services about 84,000 students, more than the entire city of Boston, but it operates with little oversight by the city’s Department of Education. The report says the federal Department of Education has repeatedly complained about the lax oversight.

Libby Pollack, a Williamsburg native who was educated in the Jewish school system, told Sharp that she believes officials know what's going on.

“What’s going on is illegal, it’s totally illegal,” Pollack said. “Unless somebody just arrived to Ellis Island, there’s no such thing that they grew up here and they don’t speak the language of the land — it’s a disgrace, and it’s the norm in Hasidic Brooklyn.”

Pollack isn't alone — the organization YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), a coalition of former yeshiva students, has spent more than a year trying to sound the alarm to education officials. They say that Jewish parochial schools should be free to teach what they please, so long as they also teach what the state requires.

“Pick a random Hasid off the street and just talk to them, it will be obvious that they’re lacking in education,” Pollack said. “With sex abuse, a lot of people try to deny it, but here [with education] you can’t deny it — it’s not something that could be hidden. If a person did not get an education, it’s going to come across.”

Hear an interview with Sharp above.

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