Young Advocates for Fair Education

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Young Advocates for Fair Education is an advocacy group dedicated to improving secular education in Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. The group advocates for curricular changes within schools, in compliance with New York State law. [1]

Members[edit]

YAFFED was founded by Naftuli Moster, a member of Brooklyn's Belzer Hasidic community. Moster grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn, one of 17 children in a Hasidic family. Yiddish was his first language. He attended Yeshiva in Borough Park where secular studies were severely limited.[2]

Mission[edit]

The primary aim of YAFFED is to advocate for improved secular studies programs in local Hasidic yeshivas. Under the organization's understanding of New York State law, local superintendents are required to ensure that local yeshivas provide curricula that are substantially equivalent to those provided in the public schools. According to The New York Jewish Week, while public schools are required to provide at least five hours of education per day, many Hasidic yeshivas only provide 90 minutes of secular education per day to boys, and no secular education to them at all after the age of about 13.

According to Moster, YAFFED's strategy has been "to get people from within the Hasidic community to speak up and demand a change in the current education system, where 14-year-olds spend 14 hours a day without learning a single word of English, math, science, history, or geography".

The Jerusalem Post has noted that YAFFED is one of several Jewish activist organizations around the globe, including Israel, the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Belgium, who are working towards having Hasidic yeshivas meet the general standards of secular education.[3]

Activities[edit]

YAFFED has advertised its mission by use of billboard advertisements and social media campaigns. One billboard quoted a Mishnaic source alongside the message: "It's your mitzvah. It's the law."[4]

YAFFED is currently exploring legal avenues through which to pressure schools to improve secular education.[5]

In the summer of 2015, YAFFED organized a letter writing campaign directed at district superintendents and the NYS Department of Education to inform them of serious concerns regarding the education in numerous Hasidic Yeshivas. The DOE subsequently announced an investigation into the matter.[6]

YAFFED has stated that if it does not receive an adequate response from the local government, it will explore taking the matter to civil court. YAFFED is seeking to represent parents from within the communities who have children currently enrolled in the schools.[7]

According to the Jewish Week, a spokesman for Attorney General Schneiderman declined to comment because the issue might "be the subject of future litigation". The New York State Department of Education referred the matter to New York City's Education Department.

The NYC Department of Education (DOE) announced in 2015 it would investigate allegations that nearly 40 ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, or yeshivas, in NYC were failing to meet state education requirements. But nine months later the DOE refused to provide any evidence that the investigation had actually begun. [8] Thereafter YAFFED began an "evidence drive" collecting materials from "yeshiva graduates of Hasidic yeshivas and parents of current yeshiva students" that would demonstrate whether Hasidic schools in NY are meeting state-mandated secular education requirements.YAFFED states that it has already collected such materials as textbooks with certain subjects "blacked out", and report cards for boys of high school age that listed "no secular subjects at all".[9] [10]

Community response[edit]

For the people in the Orthodox Jewish community, YAFFED is viewed as controversial because it works outside of the religious community's power structure. Ami Magazine, an ultra-Orthodox weekly magazine published internationally, apologized for publishing a YAFFED advertisement.[11]

The Jewish Week reported that the major Haredi umbrella organizations, as well as some local yeshivas, have declined to comment on the issue. The paper interviewed local community members in support of the organization's efforts, but those interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of community backlash.

The members in the Hasidic community have publicly responded to YAFFED by outlining their concerns over the effects on religious Jewish education by government intervention. Additionally, community members expressed concern over additional costs being placed on yeshivas and parents, and have pointed to failings of the public school system, rather than yeshiva education requirements, as being a more of a concern for government.[12]

YAFFED has responded by pointing out the degree to which critics agree that the lack of secular education Hasidic schools is seriously lacking and challenging the funding argument.[13][14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miller, Jennifer "Yiddish Isn’t Enough: A Yeshiva Graduate Fights for Secular Studies in Hasidic Education" (Nov 21, 2014) The New York Times.
  2. ^ Bid For Better Secular Ed In Yeshivas Heading Toward Court The Jewish Week, 11 March 2015
  3. ^ Fight over ad in haredi paper highlights deep divisions The Jerusalem Post, 14 December 2014
  4. ^ "Sharp, Sonja 'Huge Billboard Targets Failings of Orthodox Jewish Schools' (June 6, 2013) DNAInfo NY" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-20. Retrieved 2014-12-05. 
  5. ^ "'New York - Brooklyn Man Hopes Potential State Lawsuit Will Force Basic Secular Education In Chasidic Schools' (Nov. 27, 2014)" http://www.vosizneias.com/185632/2014/11/27/new-york-brooklyn-man-hopes-potential-state-lawsuit-will-force-basic-secular-education-in-chasidic-schools/
  6. ^ "New York to investigate haredi schools for lack of secular studies". The Jerusalem Post - JPost.com. 
  7. ^ Bid For Better Secular Ed In Yeshivas Heading Toward Court The Jewish Weekly, 11 March 2015
  8. ^ City Dragging Heels on Orthodox Jewish Schools Investigation, Critics Say Williamsburg-Green Point Patch, March 28, 2016
  9. ^ Hasidic 'Evidence Drive' Seeks to Shame DOE The Forward, March 30, 2016
  10. ^ Hasidic 'Evidence Drive' Seeks to Shame DOE The Forward, March 30, 2016
  11. ^ New York to investigate haredi schools for lack of secular studies The Jerusalem Post, 29 July 2015
  12. ^ Ezra Friedlander. "Op-Ed: Jewish Education: Sacred and Sacrosanct or Secular Sensitized?". JP Updates. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Naftuli Moster. "Rebuttal Op-Ed: Brooklyn Yeshivas Short Students In Secular Studies". Kings County Politics. 
  14. ^ "Why don't Yeshivas Provide a Better Education". 

External links[edit]