‘Across the state, there are dozens of Hasidic yeshivas, with tens of thousands of students — nearly 60,000 in New York City alone — whose education is being atrociously neglected. These schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding, through federal programs like Title I and Head Start and state programs like Academic Intervention Services and universal pre-K. For New York City’s yeshivas, $120 million comes from the state-funded, city-run Child Care and Development Block Grant subsidy program: nearly a quarter of the allocation to the entire city. According to New York State law, nonpublic schools are required to offer a curriculum that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools. But when it comes to Hasidic yeshivas, this law has gone unenforced for decades. The result is a community crippled by poverty and a systemic reliance on government funding for virtually all aspects of life.’

Maybe it was in part in response to these appalling facts (not to mention systemic welfare fraud in some of these communities), appearing prominently in the New York Times, that the State Board of Education just announced serious new secular education requirements, along with serious penalties (loss of funding; possible closing of schools inspectors find noncompliant) for ignoring them.  It’s one thing for us to watch Israel, a Jewish state, suffer demographic catastrophe because of its enormous, ignorant, and overwhelmingly state-dependent ultra orthodox population; it’s another for our proudly secular nation to underwrite such destructive collective behavior.    (Speaking of which.)

Although the relevant rabbis haven’t quite called Andrew Cuomo Hitler yet, they’re getting there.  And though the whole spectacle is on some level laughable, keep in mind that in Israel the ultra orthodox are quite capable of violence, and we can expect something of the same here as our country attempts to deal with a very angry reactionary force within it.

Ultra Orthodox Yeshivas to City: Drop Dead

The New York Times brings to mind that famous headline, as its editorial board finally addresses, with anger, the refusal of many of New York’s ultraorthodox to educate or to vaccinate their children.

As New York City has finally begun to exercise oversight over ultra-Orthodox yeshivas that have graduated students without a basic education, some of those Jewish schools have defied city health department scrutiny and helped to feed a measles outbreak. Forty children have contracted measles in recent months, all of the cases linked to a single Brooklyn yeshiva that ignored an order from city health officials to prevent children who hadn’t been vaccinated from attending classes.

And yet a community with staggering rates of law-breaking, indifference to public welfare, and plain old pathology continues to lobby aggressively – and basically successfully – for less and less oversight by the government. Remember Christopher Hitchens on Jerry Falwell and others: You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and truth in this country if you’ll just get yourself called Reverend. Here getting yourself called Rabbi allows the most extraordinary offenses against health, education, and welfare.

For decades, the communities have largely been allowed to evade government oversight, thanks to politicians who have enjoyed their support as one of the state’s most powerful voting blocs. The price of that support has been largely paid by Orthodox children.

‘[A] powerful subgroup is continuing to ignore’ the imperative to vaccinate their children.

Sad opinion piece in the New York Times, by a Hasidic Jew distraught at the failure of significant numbers of his fellow orthodox to protect their children – and the rest of us – from disease. Here’s the most interesting passage of an essay that rehearses ironclad destructive know-nothingism in several aspects (these most notoriously at the moment include the un-education of children and certain grotesque forms of circumcision) of the larger ultraorthodox community – not merely in the anti-vaccination preaching of a powerful subgroup within that community.

Whether out of shortsightedness or strategic malice, some of our religious leaders have directly fostered an atmosphere where thorough research is sneered at, the scientific method is doubted and the motivations of professionals are assumed to be nefarious and steeped in anti-religious animus.

Hardly shortsightedness, is it? I mean, that’s a pretty innocuous word, suggesting that if we can only point out the longer-term results of various rabbis’ behavior, they will maybe change it. No, the author’s use of the phrase strategic malice is far more interesting. The author’s rightly seeking a nasty motive for a nasty set of behaviors. Malice against whom? Strategic in regard to what end? (If he’d written ignorant malice, we could say What do you expect, given the appalling state of education in many American yeshivas? Weep for where the rejection of enlightened modernity lands you…)

The author repeats the word strategic at the end of his essay: Certain religious leaders are exhibiting “the strategic deployment of a siege mentality.” What’s the percentage, for powerful rabbis, of inculcating in their followers an outside-world-rejectionist mentality so severe as to mentally and physically cripple significant numbers of their children for life, and to put the health of the rest of us at risk because of their followers’ behavior? Answer: It’s obvious. These men are insanely power-hungry. As in other abusive, endgame cults, this is how cult leaders totally control people. Unto besieged death.

And, to use the technical term, this is nuts, ain’t it?

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Nuts it may be, but it’s hardly unprecedented or enigmatic behavior. Mildly cultic groups notoriously spin off radical subcults (see Warren Jeffs and the like), and respectable sects know to shun their various psycho subsectarians. Maybe they’ve got people sucking infants’ penises and thereby infecting and sometimes killing them. Maybe they’re infecting their own children with measles. “While it is reasonable to allow adults to martyr themselves to their religion, it is not reasonable to allow them to martyr their children,” says an observer.

UD‘s pretty sure it ain’t reasonable to allow adults to self-martyrize either; but anyway the theme within some orthodox Jewish communities of – in a remarkable number of ways – martyring their children is lately unignorable. Yet these communities – often modern as well as ultra – seem incapable of the shunning that other secretive and tight-knit religious communities are able to accomplish. (Not that they don’t love to shun! They just seem to shun the wrong things.) Nor is New York City’s government willing to go there. So here we are.

“Maybe it IS bad to get diseases from the Middle Ages…”

Samantha Bee does a typically hilarious take on the dumbshits who are killing us because they won’t vaccinate their children. (Her visit to Kurdish women soldiers is even funnier.) But with some yeshivas lying about compliance and spreading measles wider and wider, the New York Department of Health isn’t laughing: It has now threatened to close noncompliant yeshivas.

This is a real win-win. Closing yeshivas that lie about their sick students makes children everywhere safer. And simply by virtue of being free of New York’s many substandard ultraorthodox yeshivas, students will almost certainly be able to set out on an actual education. Indeed the shameful noncompliance of some of these schools is shining a much-needed light on their scandalously low standards. Good.

New York Moves a Step Closer to Securing a Growing Minority of Unemployable Anti-Democratic Religious Fanatics.

If you like what the haredim have done to Israel, you’ll love the latest piece of education legislation out of New York.

A yeshiva advocacy group had sued to stop New York State from implementing the so-called “Felder amendment,” an 11th hour deal to appease a state senator who was holding up the budget…

Critics are focusing their ire at Brooklyn state senator Simcha Felder, who threw the state budget negotiations into chaos and held up passage until he got an amendment to lower the bar on the amount of secular education required for yeshiva students.

… Young Advocates For Fair Education [has] has waged an intense battle to make sure that yeshivas give their students instruction in English, math and other state-mandated subjects.

It’s that old “mandate” again, ain’t it? We’ve got mandates; Israel’s got mandates. But how can they be mandates when the ultraorthodox aren’t mandated to mandate them?

The vast majority of my friends in chasidic yeshiva … still have never even heard the words algebra, atom, or biology… I have heard of no graduates from my chasidic school who have enrolled in college. In fact, the vast majority of chasidic yeshiva graduates do not even obtain a high school diploma…

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And think of the goodies civil society gets in return: Permanent profound welfare dependency. Large numbers of unemployables. A significant minority that thinks the laws of liberal democracies don’t apply to them. Indeed, that barely recognizes the state except as a source of funds.

Your tax dollars at work.







Finita la Commedia!

Or is it just beginning?

[N]o one could possibly be that good given the volatility of the markets. “As we know, markets go up and down, and his only went up.” … [Harry] Markopolos noted that during his tenure at Rampart, he traded with some of the biggest derivatives companies in the world, and none of them dealt with [Bernard] Madoff because they didn’t think his numbers were real.

Markopolos is talking about the year 1999. It wasn’t until Bernard Madoff was arrested in 2008 that Yeshiva University – under cover of night, without comment – erased his name as chair of its business school. This was farcical enough, but Yeshiva went farther: It invested huge sums with the financial criminal of the twenty-first century. “We thought he was God,” said his fellow trustee, Elie Wiesel.

One appreciates Wiesel’s honesty. He is willing to state openly just how stupid, just how grossly negligent, were the conflict-of-interest crazies running Yeshiva University.

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The excellent Gavriel Brown, who writes for YU’s student newspaper, provides a detailed account of the manifold ways in which the very same fools, who continue to run Yeshiva, have now run it into the ground. The column even provides an edgy graphic (scroll down) complete with smugly grinning President Richard Joel. Brown concludes:

YU can no longer be an empire and President Joel can no longer be an emperor.

Yes, especially since he turns out to be Nero.

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But the farce deepens yet more. The comments on Brown’s column are from outraged Yeshiva insiders who cannot believe that anyone in the Yeshiva family has the shamelessness to air this dirty laundry. How dare he! The next thing you know, someone will point out that the family that endowed an entire Yeshiva campus – the Wilfs – just got convicted of racketeering. That Ezra Merkin held as powerful a position as Yeshiva trustee as his partner in crime, Madoff. That the board of trustees has long been farcically rife with conflict of interest.

Of all the investment managers in New York City and around the world, the board chose one of its own to manage a significant portion of the university’s endowment. Given the conflict of interest, the trustees who approved the decision to invest endowment with Madoff should be held accountable if they failed to perform adequate due diligence.

Do you think anyone has been held accountable? Well, put it this way. Do you think that Zygi Wilf has been removed from Yeshiva University’s board of trustees?

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You want farce? An American university priding itself on its piety as the higher education arm of the orthodox Jewish community resembles a criminal enterprise. It seems to be run by an emperor. It is cheered on to annihilation by idjits. That’s farce.







Israeli Court Finally Comes to the Defense of University Students

Various Israeli newspapers are reporting significant movement toward reforming the country’s shameful system of subsidized yeshivas for the married ultra-orthodox.


Ha-aretz:

It took the High Court of Justice a decade, since the original petition was submitted, to rule against the distribution of welfare payments to married men studying at yeshivas.

… [T]he court ruled that awarding stipends to yeshiva students but not to students at nonreligious institutions of higher education is illegal and unconstitutional.

… The ruling came about two months after a Knesset subcommittee was shown the results of an official survey indicating that about one third of the yeshiva students who applied for welfare lied about their income in order to qualify.

The implication is that Haredi cabinet ministers and MKs are about to fight for a line item that costs NIS 135 million a year – NIS 45 million of which, allegedly, is allocated fraudulently.

Not only is much of this state money awarded fraudulently; the people it goes to refuse to provide, for themselves or their children, even the sort of basic education that would make them employable.

The High Court of Justice was presented with a petition Sunday demanding that it order the Knesset and the Education Ministry to explain why ultra-Orthodox schools are not being forced to teach basic subjects, such as Mathematics and English.

… Tens of thousands of students are being deprived of knowledge, tools, and “basic training necessary for the fulfillment of human autonomy, the ability to make an honest living, and the ability to incorporate themselves in Israeli society as active, contributing, and equal citizens,” the petitioners say.

They add that the law harms the legal rights of students attending the small yeshivas, and that it “perpetuates their economic dependence on the community and welfare payments from the state”.

No democratic state, they conclude, agrees to fund a school system devoid of governmental inspection.

A writer for YNET expands on that last point:

There is no other country in the world – not even one! – where the government funds private education. There is no other country in the world where Education Ministry representatives are not allowed to enter a school whose bills they pay (and fully so – 100% of the bills.) There is no other country in the world where teachers refuse to present their curriculum to the body that pays their salary.

He describes the children of an ultra-orthodox friend:

They can’t talk about computers, literature, geography, history, or even the Bible. Yeshivas barely teach any Bible, only Talmud.

He notes that the state’s willingness to pay all expenses for private yeshivas has meant that the national education system has been starved:

[I]n the past eight years we’ve seen a 24% decline in the number of students in teacher colleges in the national education system. People don’t want to be teachers in our sector; not with the current salaries. Why are the salaries so low? Because in those same eight years, the number of teaching cadets in your sector leapt by 111% – and all of this comes from the same budget.

Meanwhile, university students work (many haredim do not), serve in the army (ditto), and struggle to pay tuition. It’s such a grotesque disparity that one wonders why it took a decade for the Israeli court to notice its illegality and unconstitutionality.

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Update: The Jerusalem Post provides historical background. It concludes:

The haredi leadership can no longer justify devoting all of its energies to the singular endeavor of preserving tradition and insulating its flock from “evil” outside influences. It must now rise to new challenges. First and foremost among these is ensuring that while an elite few continue to carry the torch of tradition, others receive the skills needed to integrate into a dynamic labor market.







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