Shmad? Really?

Few misuses of words anger us as much as our enemies calling us Nazis. Because we have kept alive the memory and the pain, we feel the enormity of the injustice of turning victim not only into victimizer, but into the worst victimizers known to Man.

While it may be difficult to exceed the verbal wrong committed by calling Jews “Nazis,” it is not impossible. Indeed, it has happened many times – by our own. When Jews we would like to pretend don’t exist make the very same ugly charge – and direct it against the very soldiers of Tzahal that put their lives on the line to protect all other Jews – we understand. We understand that if Jews can call other Jews “Nazis,” then it should not surprise us that our ears have to hear our external enemies doing the same.

Can it get worse? Probably not. But people can come close. A few days ago, R Aron Teitelbaum of Satmar/Kiryas Yoel voiced his disapproval of the New York State Commissioner of Education for her ongoing attempt to force compliance with state curricular standards.

Now, the Rebbe has a few valid points about the disagreement with the State. Not surprisingly, so does the State. That is usually the case in a disagreement about a deep-seated conflict.

How the Rebbe expressed himself is another matter.

“She wants to change Klal Yisrael and remove us from our religion exactly as the Greeks wanted in their time, to destroy the education institutions, a decree of forced conversion (shmad). Who would have thought that here, in the greatest democracy in the world, a time would come when a decree on education would become reality?”

The Rebbe is known to be a clever, smart man. He cannot actually believe that the NYS Dept of Education is working for the apostasy of the Torah-true Jews of Kiryas Yoel and Williamsburg. So its just a bit of literary flourish, right? A bit of dramatic exaggeration? In a country currently awash with hyperbole, the Rebbe is perhaps no different than many in politics, broadcasting, and the academic world.

But there is something else wrong with this. Employing the “shmad” charge in this context cheapens centuries of Jewish history, and minimizes the sacrifices of countless Jews who laid down their lives in times of real gezeiras shmad. They knew the difference between the NYS Commissioner of Education and the likes of Antiochus, Torquemada, Count Uvarov, and the raiding parties in Iran that forcibly converted entire villages of Jews.

The Rebbe certainly knows that there is no locale in the entire country with a larger percentage of people living on the public dole than Kiryas Yoel. Not too many people are going to believe that the government is trying to wipe them out as a community. The Satmar argument that the State’s demands are excessive has some merit. It would be better, however, if it did not match that excessiveness with words that are a slap in the face of centuries of kedoshim.

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76 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    I agree that the word “Shmad” is over the top, but a quick read of the proposed State standards is indeed a threat that ALL Jews who value Jewish education, must take seriously. The most modern orthodox schools fall far short of these standards.

    • The standards are a threat – but not a credible one, at least not if the Dept of Education continues to function as it has in the best. It has primarily been interested in results. All kinds of day schools – Modern Orthodox, yeshivish, chassidish – have been able to demonstrate that they get the job done, especially in comparison to the failed public schools. There is no reason to suspect that they are going to change that policy. Of course, we don’t want to see any erosion of our ability to provide a Torah education, so many of us (myself included) who are not on the same page about the evils of secular education nonetheless believe that we should offer full resistance to governmental attempts to be overly restrictive.

      I did say overly restrictive, because a corpus of law shows that there are accepted limits to the freedom of religion that some of our friends are touting. The government can make laws that are religion-neutral even if they impact upon people’s ability to worship as they choose. I’m not going to rehash that here. If New York can demonstrate that the secular education offered in some schools is abysmally insufficient to meet genuine concerns of the State, the State will prevail. What is needed is a negotiated settlement – a meeting of the minds someplace in the middle. That can and will happen with the vast majority of day schools and yeshivos; it may not happen with some chassidishe groups, including some large ones

  2. Raymond says:

    While I certainly find it appalling and embarrassing the extent to which the Satmar Chassidim live off of government welfare, and while I have had a decades-long disagreement with them when it comes to the issue of the Modern Jewish State of Israel, I actually think that in this particular case mentioned above, that the claims of the Satmar Chassidim have some merit. Public school education has become a breeding ground for political correctness, where values are taught there that go completely counter to Jewish values. A classic case of this is the children’s book called Heather Has Two Mommies, which seeks to indoctrinate innocent little children, into the virtues of living a lesbian lifestyle. This is one of the dangers of public school education, and is one of the reasons why i have long thought that the government should get completely out of the education business altogether, and just let each social group educate their children according to their own moral values and academic standards.

  3. Steve Berman says:

    Rav Adlerstein
    I find your position difficult to understand. A superficial reading of the requirements seem to suggest an anti-semitic bias which would thus make the Rebbe’s comparison more than understandable.
    I base this statement on the hourly requirements. Public school seems to have a 5.5 hour requirement of secular studies whereas the new requirement for yeshivas far surpasses this (7 hours).
    How can this be understood logically? Doesn’t it imply shmad?
    Frankly I am happy for this discrepancy because it should lend weight to the claims of anti-semitism in the lawsuits that are bound to happen.

  4. dr. bill says:

    rabbi Adlerstein, I agree with you that the Rebbe is too learned to consider this shmad. However, he was not giving a shiur; he was talking to his chassidim and telling them how he wants them to behave in reaction to the state’s action.

    I do not agree with your implication of how well students at these yeshivot perform, comparing them to public school graduates. That does not fulfill what the Torah promises – we will be an am navon.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    We can use more appropriate language, but the danger is increasing. These comments relate to current and pending threats to our schools…and more:

    1. Orthodox communities, institutions, and families depend on government aid to make ends meet, and keep needing/wanting/demanding more.
    2. Overwhelmingly, Orthodox Jews live, work, and study in areas under liberal-to-socialist government control.
    3. Given leftist dominance in education, media, and bureaucracies, one can expect more social and government pressure to inflict Jewishly objectionable cultural ideas and behavior on us.
    4. This same dominance may make the Trump phenomenon temporary on the national level.
    5. Therefore, we should prepare for ideologically fueled government initiatives to inject PC-leftist culture into our own schools and lives as a precondition for receiving taxpayer money. This goes well beyond mandated time allocation in the school day.
    6. Much of the threat would still exist even if we took no taxpayer money. It just that the money makes us a more inviting target.
    7. Machers and machers-in-training hobnobbing and posing for photos with politicians moved by strong leftist ideology, and not just plain old venality, won’t solve the problem. The De Blasios of the world will openly turn on us as opportunities arise. Our money and votes matter less to these types than we may think.
    8. As in times of old, our own Hellenists are the most eager to do us in.
    9. I hope national Orthodox organizations and spokespeople fully understand what we face. Yesterday is gone.

  6. Michoel Halberstam says:

    Ir is very valuable to read the Perush of Seforno concerning the sale of Yosef. He points out that the brothers who were great and holy people were convinced that they had to get rid of him, because they stopped seeing him as a person acting in his self-interest, and identified him as the author of a plan to destroy them. Once we see others as part of a movement (read “shita”) rather than as individuals who disagree with us, anyone can espouse outrageous positions. The Netziv called this Sinas Chinam. Many people did not like the Netziv’s position on this, but he is clearly right. Satmar has long been a major offender in this regard. If you are gainst them, you are against G-g lehavdil. In the last hundred years this kind of thinking has torn Klal Yisroel to shreds. I hope we will not have to live through another disaster as a result. You are absolutely right not everyone is a nazi. Even if they are it does no good to call them names.

  7. Dr. E says:

    We have seen plenty of those in our midst who are clearly not wise enough to qualify for “divrei chachamim b’nachas nishma’im” and resort to hyperbole instead. And that includes the cavalier use of language and terminology previously copyrighted for periods in Jewish History where the existential threats, physical or spiritual, were real. As such, they were off-limits to be used in other mundane contexts, until recently. In the secular world of late, there has been a call for civility. In our Mesorah, there is an entire corpus of Torah and Mussar. But for some, they find that any such restrictions present barriers to their agenda and they conveniently have license to discount them.

  8. Shades of Gray says:

    Someone I know was in Rabbi Moshe Sherer’s homiletics (public speaking) class in Torah Vodaath, where students would give speeches which Rabbi Sherer would then critique. The day after there was a violent crime in the news (perhaps in public school)a boy gave a speech with the message that this was the reason to send your son to yeshiva. R. Sherer rejected the derasha out of hand as an “overkill”, in my friend’s words.

    The message that yeshivos have values and are free of drugs and crime was mentioned by the Satmar rebbe in his speech, by Rabbi Yaakov Bender of Darchei Torah after the NYT used a picture from Secretary Betsy DeVos’ visit there in a critical article, and by others in the past. As long as this message is in a context of subtlety (certainly in the case of R. Bender), it’s a positive message; otherwise, it can backfire, as Orthodox Jews have white-collar crimes as well.

    It’s likewise not inherently bad to tell Chasidim that the message of Chanukah is to stand firm in one’s principles against opposition, but it needs to be done with subtlety; saying that Senator James Skoufis is “wicked and evil” is not subtle. Hamodia also exposed itself to criticism when an editorial last year used the term “rodef” about Yaffed.

  9. Yisroel says:

    The percentage of people on public assistance is s red herring regarding education. The lawsuits driving these new regulations are our own internal mortal enemies, whose goal is the destruction of our yeshiva education system.

  10. BF says:

    Good points, but does the Satmar Rebbe read Cross Currents? If not, what does this article accomplish?

    • It accomplishes what I consider to be one of the cardinal principles of living in a democracy – or really any open society. That being the need to show your neighbors that you are willing to call out your own when they act improperly. And if you don’t buy it, then don’t even think of criticizing the Muslim community for often failing to call out the sins in their midst.

  11. Steve Berman says:

    Shades of Gray
    “It’s likewise not inherently bad to tell Chasidim that the message of Chanukah is to stand firm in one’s principles against opposition, but it needs to be done with subtlety; saying that Senator James Skoufis is “wicked and evil” is not subtle. Hamodia also exposed itself to criticism when an editorial last year used the term “rodef” about Yaffed.”

    What part of cutting off a Greek General’s head and going to war is “subtle”? We apparently have different ideas of the message of chanukah.
    Granted I am not proposing war but subtlety is not always called for when you are trying to awaken people to a potential problem. And clearly Hamodia was correct, Yaffed is a rodef who has (hopefully just temporarily) won a victory against our yeshiva system.
    Ultimately if this edict can not be overturned through behind the scenes “subtlety” and judicious use of the legal system then what do you propose? Will you be out there protesting with those that refuse to allow the government to change our religious standards? Will you act like a Maccabee and fight for religion? or make excuses that it’s better not to make waves and to just accept the government rules?
    I am surprised at the level of acceptance from everyone (including the author) at the proposed rules. As stated the rules affect all yeshivos including Darchei, which , as we all agree, is better then the average public school. As stated the rules are more restrictive for the Jewish educational system then it is toward the public school system (in terms of hours). The illogic can only be explained as bias.
    To call this threat “not credible” as the author stated is a hope for the future not a legitimate reading of the current facts on the ground.

  12. Yossi says:

    Rabbi Alderstein,

    I certainly agree with you that hyperbole can be definitely damaging and negative. What I greatly disagree with is your assumption that things will be fine if things continue as they are.

    We have no way to know whether things will continue as they are; these new standards certainly are at least a “shot across the bow”. Forget that most mainstream Orthodox schools have better academics, and forget our values. It seems completely arbitrary for the department to decide you need seven hours and G-d knows how many subjects. I don’t even know if this is anti-Semitic. What I do know is it gives the government way too much influence in the nitty gritty of our lives.

    As an aside, does anyone know how people are able to home school their kids and not be in violation of truancy laws?

    • Please see some of my earlier comments. I don’t disagree. We must fight them. But I don’t feel a sense of existential crisis. There is no way that they can prevail in court. At the same time, there is a great likelihood that, despite any of our efforts to the contrary, they WILL prevail in establishing a minimum curriculum that will be an enforceable law of the land

  13. Dr. E says:

    On the broader topic of Secular Studies in high schools, some have pushed back and claimed that their programs are validated by the fact that some of their students get into Harvard Law School. I am not really all that satisfied using that alone as a convincing defense. First, law school admissions have been down nationally significantly over the past 10 years ostensibly making it easier to get in, including Harvard. And the number of available law (firm) jobs is down as well. Plus I don’t think that Harvard sees the HS’s in question as a “feeder”. Second more generally, what about those for whom law school is not a fit or not affordable. Are these high schools preparing their students for other careers like STEM which after a legitimate college degree in one of those tracks will have a more open job market? Or are the schools positioning graduates for those fields which will eventually require both a college and a graduate degree? After all, not everyone can be born or marry into privilege and move into a family-connected business whenever the time is right.

    So, I would caution those who continue to try to prove the rule from the exceptions, as glitzy as they might sound. The high schools which ostensibly do a decent job in Limudei Kodesh should honestly introspect as to whether their Limudei Chol programs are leading to positive long-term outcomes for all of their students–rather than maintaining that they are better than the weakest links.

  14. Michael Broyde says:

    I write not in my rabbinic mode, but in my academic mode of someone who teaches in a law school and center for the study of law and religion. It is clear that the State has a real and reasonable interest in making sure that the students in a school get an education. You can read my thoughts on this at . Claims of Shmad are overblown exactly because we have never had a constituional idea that parents can practice religion with their children in any way that they wish and no matter what the cost to the children. Vaccines are as good an example as any. The state has to regulate to prevent very bad outcomes. The US Constitution never gave anyone the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to practice religion as they see fit.

    The question of how much education exactly is needed is a good one, but my gut is that attempts to impose on private religious schools any standards greater than the public schools will fail. The historical tradition has been to impose less. Time will tell where that lands, but I doubt that the polemical view that this threatens all yeshvot will turn out to be correct.

  15. BF says:

    I buy it.

  16. Yehudah says:

    The roshei yeshiva of mir and Torah vodaas to see this threat as grave. It is very telling that Rabbi Adlerstein chose to weigh in on the hyperbole on one side instrad of choosing to battle this increasing threat to our chinuch. The new rules impowers school boards to weigh in on our chinuch. These are not professionals rather politically elected officials who can not be counted on to tolerate our way of life. Rabbi Adlerstein should be aware of the message he sends. There are many positive things to say about satmar. When the goyim assault it’s the time for unity instead of criticism. It begs the question which side are you on?

    • There is no “instead of” here. Once again, the intervention of the State in religious matters is something we would have to battle against even if the threat would not be grave. If ever there is a slippery slope concern, it is in any hint of an erosion of religious freedom. That should not preclude our calling out hyperbolic distortions of our history.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Suppose some government created this minimum requirement for Jewish schools, ostensibly for our own good:
    that the secular studies there must provide exactly the same content as taught in nearby public schools. Not necessarily the same amount of time, but the same content. Considering how much morally and intellectually subversive PC garbage is already shoveled at students in public schools as if it were true, we would not jump for joy. This scenario is no longer unthinkable. Since the judicial system is devolving much as general society is, courts may buy this concept sooner or later.

  18. Steve berman says:

    Reb Broyde
    “Time will tell where that lands, but I doubt that the polemical view that this threatens all yeshvot will turn out to be correct“
    Of course it depends on how you define “threatens”. Clearly the MO opinions here are pro an increase in chol at the expense of kodesh.
    I’m sure the Chasidim will consider that yahrog V’al yavor (hence the “hyperbole”)
    Yet I can not discount numerous conversations with a close relative that teaches at an Israeli gap year yeshiva for American MO students.
    Every year at the beginning of the zman, he takes an informal poll of his students and their classmates . Asking questions such as “do you or your friends text on shabbos?”. By his estimates, 10% of students leaving MO high schools are fully frum. With statistics like that I would take the chassidish derech any day.
    I went to a mainstream Brooklyn yeshiva with an abysmal chol program. My friends and I are lawyers, doctors, surgeons, etc (with some rabbeim) . But all are frum.

  19. Bob Miller says:

    From Rav Reisman, who is not an alarmist but a realist:

  20. Rafael Quinoaface says:

    What I want to understand is: where did they pull that 6 hours requirement from? Was there any consultation on this figure? That is one of the main issues with these guidelines: the excessive time required, which is cannot be met unless we gut our yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. That alone may be why so many are using hyberbole here: it looks like an attempt to alter the form our yeshivos, or by shutting them down, by making it impossible to meet these criteria. That is very concerning!

  21. Yossi says:

    One thing to remember- these days, there are many successful Yeshiva graduates, both as professionals, and increasingly as entrepreneurs in real estate, health care, online retail and other fields. However, as successful as many in our communities are, many manage to do it with very little secular education. So while we may not see the need for more education, the state might because they see the education as a value in and of itself.

  22. Tal Benschar says:

    “The standards are a threat – but not a credible one, at least not if the Dept of Education continues to function as it has in the best.”

    I find this attitude puzzling. The law as proposed is discriminatory. What is the justification for requiring more hours (7 hours is a full day for any child)? To say, don’t worry, the bureaucrats will not enforce it if our math and English scores are high enough strikes me as incredibly naive.

    And what Bob raises below is even more troubling. In England, they are already mandating teaching tolerance to activities we consider abhorrent. That is where the danger lies, IMO.

  23. Bo says:

    Hyperbole isn’t only “sanctioned” by low standards of a country awash with it, but also lehavdil, under the right conditions, in Halachic literature. This is usually kept under the radar because 1. it would deprive the masses of their inspiration, if for example, they be told that lashon hara is equivalent to the three cardinal sins–only in hyperbolic terms. But Chazal formulate it that way to counterbalance the inherent human tendency to belittle the severity of lashon hara. 2. others would be upset with / condescending to, Chazal for allowing it.

    Now any hyperbole runs the risk of backfiring. Is the molehill to be upgraded into a mountain or is the mountain to be cheapened into a molehill? It usually depends on the recipients’ receptivity to the idea. People have no way to gauge the severity of lashon hara. If there’s a claim that it’s equivalent to the three cardinal sins, they will (and actually do) accept it. Likewise Satmar masses, especially with their everything’s-treif mindset, have no reason to question the Rebbe’s comparison of the Commissioner and the Greeks. Treif is the worst thing in the world. If that’s the most effective way to get the message across, and he decides that the message is important enough to allow hyperbole, he can, no, he must, do so.

    Chassidish Rebbe’s have the extra advantage of not being questioned. That gives them the latitude to use hyperbole where necessary even where unreasonable, because the Chassidim will still accept.

    The Satmar Rebbe’s primary responsibility is to his flock, to choose what’s most effective for them. If his hard line gets flack in the wider community, who know from their own flesh that you can do well religiously despite secular education, and comparing Shmad to it is a scandal, that’s only a secondary consideration. Especially, because the wider community won’t follow him anyway; worst they’ll think he’s woefully wrong.

    In a different venue, the Satmar Rebbe would take a softer line. That’s why he’s the ghost of this post! 😉

    • Indeed, he’s not the only one to use hyperbole. Rav Ovadiah zt”l did it quite often – although there was a key difference. His audience understood that it was hyperbole. And even so, lots of other Yidden had to pay a steep price for it, because there are no secrets. Some of the choicer lines of Rav Ovadiah are still prominently displayed on far-right hate sites to “prove” to their audiences that Jews look down upon them, have malign intentions, reject black people, etc. It could be that by the time this became a real problem, Rav Ovadiah was too old to be able to change his style. Anyone who is not too old does not have that excuse. The weakness in your argument is in one word you use: “primary.” Primary implies secondary. The secondary considerations behind anything a Jewish public figure says today must be how those words will be received elsewhere. Unless they really don’t care about the impact on anyone else…

  24. Ken Eisenberg says:

    Public schools are atrocious from a pedagogic aspect and often are unsafe. Values foisted are totally opposed to traditional values, Marxist and Hellenist. That said, lose the “Shmad” stuff, as witness above, it can only become a distraction.

  25. Leiby Wasser says:

    One wonders whether Cross-Currents would post a similar attack on a pronouncement by a Gadol or religious leader more in line with the Yeshivish/non Hasidic community.

    • A fair question. I think you know the answer. We HAVE questioned and disagreed (never attacked) such figures more than once in Cross-Currents. Chassidim and yeshiva people each look up to their leaders, albeit for different reasons. We don’t really expect that chassidim should have a sense of yiras ha-romemmus for someone with whom they have no kesher; neither can they reasonably expect non-chassidim to buy into the notion of the Baal Ha-Toldos that each manhig is a nitzotz of Moshe Rabbenu.

  26. mycroft says:

    One can’t compare the effectiveness of Yeshiva/day school secular education by comparing test results to public schools. In general socioeconomic background of day school students is higher than public school students.
    Public schools have to educate everyone who lives in neighborhood, day schools can admit and keep those who they wish. In my relatively small schul there are and have been students who graduate public school, they are not the superior academic ones.

  27. mycroft says:

    It is easy to find elements of the proposed guidelines that appear to be unreasonable. Using a figure that roughly a quarter of NYS private school students are Jewish-google search-it is not fair to treat the proposed guidelines as shmad, anti-Semitism. Catholics alone have more students in private schools than are in Jewish schools.

  28. dr. bill says:

    i wonder if the agudah rabbis of age 60-80 can comment on their secular education and how it impacted them hashkafically, halakhically or otherwise.

  29. Benshaul says:

    I have always admired Rabbi Adlerstein, and it’s a rare occasion (actually, i cannot think of one to date-till now) that i don’t gain from his writing and perspective.
    This will be one of those times.
    I think he missed the boat on this one. It IS a serious threat, and many of the reasonable and responsible educators, Rabbonim, and leaders in NY have expressed their grave concern. Yes, the term shmad may have been hyperbole, but -to be honest, it looked like you were searching for the villain on this one.

    Sorry, but I read the piece and all i could think was , Really ! this is the big avlah? I look forward to the more edifying and challenging writing- that is your wont.

  30. Steve Berman says:

    “Catholics alone have more students in private schools than are in Jewish schools.”

    Yes but Catholic schools teach 45 minutes of religion thus this law IS for all intents and purposes targeting Jewish schools. Catholic schools may boycott because they see the inherent evil of allowing government an additional foothold in education (along the lines of the British govt mandating specific abhorrent courses), but it wont particularly affect them.
    I am still trying to figure out why this doesn’t fit the authors previous definition of antisemitism
    “It is anti-Semitic to treat Jews differently than any other people – period. End of discussion.”
    Even if you want to argue that it isn’t particularly targeting Jews and thus a nuanced reading takes it out from being anti-Semitic, you still have to admit it’s anti-religious. So why on earth anyone would promote compromise here escapes me.

    • “I am still trying to figure out why this doesn’t fit the authors previous definition of antisemitism”

      Let’s put this on hold until we see whether the State is going to accept the claim on the vast majority of our schools that they DO meet its “substantial equivalence” demand (my guess) and is seeking change ONLY in the few dozen schools that offer NO secular studies at all. If I prove to be wrong, then you are right.

  31. Asher says:

    “A classic case of this is the children’s book called Heather Has Two Mommies, which seeks to indoctrinate innocent little children, into the virtues of living a lesbian lifestyle“

    Raymond, the purpose of teaching such a story isn’t to extol the virtues of a lesbian lifestyle. Kids aren’t going to become lesbian because of this story. The purpose of the story is to teach kids that not all families look the same, but everyone should be valued and accepted regardless of whether they conform to the norm or majority. This is particularly valuable for people in the Frum lifestyle who dress differently than their neighbors.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    How are MO institutions responding to this NYS regulation and what it portends? Unless they aspire to run a network of elite prep schools with minimal Jewish content, the regulation will hit them heavily, too. Here, they ought to make common cause with Chareidim.

  33. Bo says:

    dr. bill December 12, 2018 at 6:22 pm “i wonder if the agudah rabbis of age 60-80 can comment on their secular education and how it impacted them hashkafically, halakhically or otherwise.”

    Rav Pam did comment. He was once trying to talk a student of his out of going to college. The student challenged, “But you went college and became great!” Rav Pam answered, “Yes I went to college. But had I not gone I would have been greater.”

    Apparently he opposed having a hand in mediocracy and worse.

  34. dr. bill says:

    he did oppose college, a different issue. i was in TV where he was then an 11th-grade rebbe and we had a full secular curriculum for 3.5 hours.

    in counter-point, the Rav ztl, whose second-floor library, for those zoche to see it, did not look unused, was asked about his time spent acquiring secular knowledge. he smiled and said, while others are talking about me, I study secular subjects. knowing the interest in secular subjects of various talmidim, the Rav would on very rare occasion say something to you in your field of expertise that would shock you.

    i was zoche to be lent a sefer by one rav Pam ztl’s grandchildren on a halakhic topic i know well, i was asked to look at the various places where rav pam left tissues as bookmarks and see if i could guess at what he was thinking. it turned out to be obvious, but involved an area where his mathematical background was very relevant

  35. Bob Miller says:

    Asher wrote above that “…not all families look the same, but everyone should be valued and accepted regardless of whether they conform to the norm or majority. This is particularly valuable for people in the Frum lifestyle who dress differently than their neighbors.”

    Society has to draw a line of acceptability. In practice, the tolerant, inclusive progressives who’d like to run our lives do draw lines all the time–which is why many subject their own hate-objects to constant, concerted attack…and, yes, exclusion.

  36. Tal Benschar says:

    Just received this email from the Breuer’s Yeshiva:

    As you may be aware, the New York State Department of Education has come out with guidelines that characterize what we just oft-recited on Chanukah

    להשכיחם תורתיך ולהעבירם מחוקי רצוניך

    The Novominsker Rebbe shlita has stated that since Klal Yisroel has been in the United States, there has never been such a serious threat to our spiritual existence.

    Please understand that this is a real threat and danger for all of our Mosdos.

    Please click on the link below to sign the petition. Please forward this notice and the link to your entire parent body to maximize the signatures on this vital petition.

    So it seems that others besides Satmar view this as a threat.

    • There is no question that it is a threat. But the Commissioner is not Count Uvarov. She may have her own reasons for coming down hard on the yeshivos that have nothing to do with converting Jews en masse. There are powerful forces that are arrayed against all non-public education, because it offers an alternative to parents from the horrific failure of the public school system. Ideas to improve public education have been deep-sixed by teachers’ unions around the country. We will have to play hardball with them, and BEH we will prevail. But you can’t fight a war without knowing the nature of the opponent. Characterizing this as religious war/shmad just convinces the onlooker that the people on the yeshiva side can’t read, don’t understand the American system – and need a bit more acculturation to bring them out of their self-imposed darkness. That can’t help

  37. careful reader says:

    As I read the Commissioner’s toolkit ( ) it appears to mandate two units of English, Social Studies, Science and Math for grades 5-8 referencing the relevant regulations. When you follow up the regulations it gives an identical list of requirements for grades 7-8 to be completed by the end of eighth grade, indicating one math per year for grades 7 and 8. It would appear to me that one might misunderstand the Program requirements provided in Appendix A to think you need two units of every subject every year which would total up to 40 hours per week instead of 20. Are we all in agreement about what the state is mandating?

    • Nope. I’m thoroughly confused. I’ve skimmed a few of the documents, and there is no question that the guidelines are enormously dangerous – mostly because they are so vague, and arrogate so much power to the Board of Ed and its delegated minions. There is no question that they have to be met with full-throated resistance. Whatever the intentions of the Board, there is sufficient hatred of both religion and non-public education in some circles that the guidelines are dangerous. OTOH, I can’t figure out where the 7 hours a day thing came from. And they are full of references to being mindful of the different practices and values of religious communities; of “substantial equivalence” NOT meaning doing the same thing as public schools; of goals that are reasonable and already in place in the vast majority of our schools – except for the schools that effectively have no serious program of secular studies at all. It does NOT describe a process of local principals walking in and deciding whether yeshivos are in compliance. In NYC, it names the Chancellor of the city Board of Ed as the authority. (Yes, I suppose it means that he could delegate all sorts of unsuitable people to do the inspections, which is one of the many reasons why the situation is dangerous.) Did you find what I missed?

  38. Shades of Gray says:

    “And clearly Hamodia was correct, Yaffed is a rodef who has (hopefully just temporarily) won a victory against our yeshiva system.”

    R. Yair Hoffman, a Yaffed critic, wrote an op-ed on Vos Iz Neias that disagreed with the usage of “rodef” in the editorial , though all the rabbis quoted in the Jewish Week(“Is It A Threat To Call Someone A ‘Rodef’?”) said Hamodia readers would not take the article literally.

    Hamodia is usually careful with its language. At the 2016 Agudah Convention, (“Raising Healthy, Happy, and Resilient Children”), Mrs. Rachel Roth from Hamodia spoke about their value of respect, “Even the second or third time (beyond standards of secular media) elected officials are referred to with titles because of values of kavod habriyos and Tzelem Elokim, particularly leaders, even if such elected officials are bad for the community (34:45). Hamodia writes “five people” injured rather than “five injured” because of Tzelem Elokim(36:00).”

  39. Yisroel says:

    Read here from the Wall Street Journal

  40. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein December 14, 2018 at 12:49 am:

    No official today would blatantly write, “We, the State, demand that you put aside your principles and adopt ours, and here’s how we’ll make you do it.” There has to be ambiguous language pointing in opposite directions to allow freedom of interpretation and action to the enforcers.

    There is also the matter of confidence. Given the nature of politics in NY State and City, can we trust officials to use broad powers in a measured, unbiased way? To even care about the constitutional and statutory limits on their behavior? Not really! Can we trust attorneys general and judges to do the right thing? Questionable!

  41. Rochel Berger says:

    Why is no one talking about the fact that this disaster is largley self inflicted!!When you take from, encourage and be mechanef big govt leftist politicians (see Cuomo/deblassio and Satmar) there is always price tag.

  42. Binyomin S. says:

    With all due respect to Rabbi Adlerstein, I’m far from a Satmar chosid, but I strongly object to the tone of this criticism on one of our gedolim. I think this blog is well intentioned, but is reducing the respect that yiddin have for our gedolim. The underlying theme seems to be, “we respect and follow or gedolim when we agree with them”. I may be wrong, and I stand to be corrected, but that’s the feeling I get. I believe that if Rav Akiva Eiger was alive, and he made such a statement, instead of trying to understand him we would publish this blog against his words.

    • I’m a huge fan of maintaining kavod for our Gedolim – and work ardently in that direction. (That comes at quite a cost. המבין יבין) But do keep in mind that the Litvishe yeshiva definition of Gadol differs (or at least used to!) from other definitions. It is not synonymous with “manhig” or even “first-rate talmid chacham.”

  43. Steve Brizel says:

    The bottom line is that the regulations represent a slippery slope of regulations imposed by an unaccountable bureaucracy that threaten every yeshiva from Satmar to the most MO day school and should be fought in the public arena by the entire Torah community

  44. Steve Brizel says:

    In the UK the Charedi schools which enjoy state support in a similar manner were challenged on issues such as being diversity pluralism and openness on LGBT related issues Regulators have a way of imposing ideological agendas into their regulations

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Once regulations are planned and implemented those with a vested interest in enforcement seek more rather than less areas of enforcement. Insisting on more hours of secular study which cut at the purpose of a yeshiva and day school education inevitably and invariably leads to the imposition of curriculums rooted in PC tolerance diversity and respect for alternative life styles which are the exact opposite of what are a primary goal of Torah observance and education

  46. dr. bill says:

    binyomin, to compare the satmar rabbi ro rav akiva eiger is as disrespectful as it gets.

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    Michael Brayden-are there not SCOTUS decisions involving the Amish that held that the State cannot force Amish students to attend public schools?

  48. Bo says:

    All I can say, and I gather from other commenters that they have similar sentiments, is that a master of elegant and eloquent thought and writing had a bad day, and the day after chose or was forced to dig a little deeper. But I’ll offer a few comments:

    -The Magid shiur whose equating zionists with amalek was leaked, which set off an international media storm, immediately had his shiurim removed from the web. He learned his lesson. If the case for the Rebbe to likewise tone down is strong enough, and he needs to be updated how things you say end up all over the world, it is insufficient to post on CC. A small delegation (consisting of Rabbi Shafran and others?) should visit him and apprise him of what’s happening so that he can decide if he wants to change his approach.

    -The definition of “Shmad” is not limited to instances of horrid physical consequences for those who do not yield. If the Jewish Agency offers a kinder transport for religious families in Morocco to Israel, and without parental consent secularizes the children, and one child becomes the most happy, comfortable, wealthy, and secularly successful person in the world… that is also Shmad. And “Shmad” is such a recurring term in Satmar literature that no one even turns their head when hearing it.

    -Not only did Breuer’s compare certain living people to the Greeks, a writer for Cross-Currents also did, at the end of this piece:

  49. DF says:

    The standards cannot be enforced, of course, especially now that the Catholics have also rejected them. So take this to the bank: Andrew Cuomo, who has aspirations of higher office, will not let his state education commissioner derail them. He will get the Agudah, and possibly the Catholics as well, to make some kind of meaningless non-binding commitment to “reconsider” their standards, or something similar. This will enable him (in his world) to claim victory and save face, while quietly dumping this ridiculous non-starter of a proposal. It’s unfortunate that political capital had to be wasted on this, but its too late now.

  50. Bob Miller says:

    DF essentially says above that Cuomo will not let his political correctness interfere with his political ambition, so he will make the right decision for the wrong reason. How comforting!

    However, if the national Democratic Party’s ascendant left analyzes such decisions and concludes that Cuomo is not a truly committed social justice warrior, he can forget about higher office. So the path that best suits his ambition might not be clear after all.

  51. Shades of Gray says:

    Even Yaffed (!) thinks the NYS guidelines are excessive(Haaretz):

    “The updated requirements even proved too much for the person who has pushed for increased secular education in yeshivas since 2012. Moster, who was raised a Belz Hasid in Brooklyn, says he set up Yaffed after realizing he had finished yeshiva high school without a basic education in things like math and English. Moster says six or seven hours of secular studies in yeshivas “is unrealistic,” adding: “But state should have at least three or four hours a day.”

    Also, Yeshiva of Flatbush wrote to the NYT re. the photo accompanying the NYT article “Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas?”(from Yeshiva World):

    “The New York Times article first included a picture of Yeshiva Darchei Torah and retracted it after Rosh Yeshivah Rabbi Yaakov Bender responded to its misrepresentation of his school. Then the Times changed the online picture to the Yeshivah of Flatbush, renowned for its outstanding secular academics, Judaic studies and distinguished alumni…Our school is requesting of the New York Times to remove the picture of our institution from the web-based article and publish an apology to the Yeshivah of Flatbush.”

  52. DF says:

    Bob – I wasn’t referring to political correctness, I meant the embarrassment he would face, and how impotent he would look, when these standards are flat-out ignored (as they will be, if not removed.) Besides, Cuomo has been around a while, and is not going to trade the weight of social activists for the clout of the organized Catholic Church.

  53. Bob Miller says:

    Some readers of the regulation are comforted and thrown off by its constant refrain of “or equivalent.” They feel this takes the sting out of the onerous numerical requirements.

    In the aircraft engine industry, companies often want a new engine part or a newly sourced part to replace the old. Whatever the reason for the switch, it can’t be done arbitrarily. To avoid redoing all the expensive, time-consuming tests, they often try to establish equivalency by running a smaller set of evaluations, carefully analyzing the results, and then making a defensible decision. If the engine company wants to stay in business, its decisions about equivalency will be made objectively.

    That’s in the private sector, but this is in the political jungle. Establishing educational equivalency under the new regulation will be a problem, because the relevant public officials will have enough wiggle room in interpreting its written standards to rule as they wish. Schools will valiantly put forth their evidence of equivalency, but then officials can and often will make their decisions based on specious reasoning and cultural or political bias. Optimists might say that the officials will be models of wisdom and honesty. Others might say, “What? This is New York!”

    • All true – except that this is less of a change than we realize. Up until this point, there were also requirements that our schools routinely ignored. The State was not unhappy; they realized we were generally doing a better job than the public schools. They really bought into the “equivalence” argument. Both sides danced around each other. What changed was the focus placed on the worst offenders by activists who felt that they had been hurt by the complete absence of secular studies in a relatively small number of schools. The State could not forever ignore the pressure that was building, especially after all the media focus on those schools. I still believe that in the end, schools that are willing to negotiate separately with the State and NOT make common cause with the no-secular-studes-at-any-price schools will emerge unscathed. I don’t believe that the Modern Orthodox schools are going to want to protect Satmar and its fellow travellers. Even if none of the schools to the right break ranks, this will be enough to demonstrate that the State has no interest in closing the yeshivos; others will then follow along. Just a guess.

  54. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Rabbi Adlerstein’s comment of 4:27 pm:

    If NY State’s real concern is only those Jewish schools where secular studies have been absent or near-absent for decades , it could have saved itself a lot of grief,
    1. By actually enforcing what was already on the books, and
    2. By adding only the minimum new language that would get the job done.

    Instead, it devised something long and often self-contradictory that risked uniting the Jewish right and the Catholic Church against it. That’s why I feel the new regulation was drafted with other, future goals in mind. Either that or the State is just plain stupid. Maybe both.

  55. Sara Elias says:

    Strangely, both the Agudah and, especially, Rav Elya Brudny seem to agree much more with Rav Ahron of Satmar’s categorization of these new regulations rather than with Rabbi Adlerstein’s. Why would that be?

    • In time, you will find out. Right now, I’m not at liberty to say. (Don’t worry. Nothing diabolical is going on.) And if, after the dust settles, I am proven wrong, I will have no problem saying so. It happens about once an hour. Unless I am awake. Then it happens more frequently.

  56. Steve Berman says:

    “In time, you will find out. Right now, I’m not at liberty to say. (Don’t worry. Nothing diabolical is going on.)”
    Nothing happened to the Yidden in the story of Purim after the dust settled. We still see it as an “eis tzarah” and a hidden miracle. I am sure there is plenty of behind the scenes politics going on, and it may all turn out to be nothing.
    That doesn’t change the point. It has less to do with standards and more to do with winds of anti religiosity. Rav Brudny seeing this as an eis tzarah calls for our increase in chashivus and learning of torah.
    Rav Reisman seeing this as an eis tzarah calls for an increase in achdus among all orthodox divisions.
    To quote Rav Reisman on chanukah, “to them we are all the same” it’s a shame we don’t act that way.

  57. Steve Brizel says:

    Innocuous legislative changes sometimes have a way of having major consequences of not insignifcant importance. The change in Education Law 3402(2) was one example. Prior to the amendment of this statute, Yeshivos could easily rely on having secular studies departments that were in “substantial compliance” with the same departments in the public schools. The amendment now gives the NYSED the power to determine whether “substantial compliance” is evident and to investigate and regulate. It would behoove any and all readers to investigate which interest groups lobbied for the change . A small obvious list would be the teachers unions, the educational establishment and those groups that have litigated both in NY and elsewhere against tuition credits and the like and their allies among the cottage industry of OTD and Shoneh UParush individuals, none of whom are known for their praise of and appreciation for the work and mission of yeshivos and parochial schools. Techocratic bureaucrats often mask an ideological bias in their regulations and as part of their raison de etre seek to regulate more, rather than less. These facts IMO should be explored by the appropriate parties all available means,. IMO, no bureaucrat worth his or her salt will stop at Satmar-they will push the edge of the regulatory envelope as afar as they can if not challenged because of their job description and the not no neutral underlying ideological bias against yeshivos and parochial schools.

  58. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote on this issue:

    “One can’t compare the effectiveness of Yeshiva/day school secular education by comparing test results to public schools. In general socioeconomic background of day school students is higher than public school students.
    Public schools have to educate everyone who lives in neighborhood, day schools can admit and keep those who they wish. In my relatively small schul there are and have been students who graduate public school, they are not the superior academic ones.
    It is easy to find elements of the proposed guidelines that appear to be unreasonable. Using a figure that roughly a quarter of NYS private school students are Jewish-google search-it is not fair to treat the proposed guidelines as shmad, anti-Semitism. Catholics alone have more students in private schools than are in Jewish schools.”

    One can argue quite convincingly that the public schools are a monopoly that have long been failing those who would and should choose elsewhere due to poor test scores on grade level tests and the inability to discipline teachers other than via a “rubber room” where teachers accused of very problematic conduct with students collect their pay for doing nothing . Those who sought to allow the NYSEC to determine “substantial compliance” as opposed to the proof of educational success and Regents diplomas being granted by yeshivos as proof thereof may very well have an ideological and IMO highly improper view of education that views the public school as the only legitimate means of education for all children.

  59. m b says:

    Yaffed counts Eric Yoffie – former head of Reform among its advisors. Yoffieis a prolific author of Orthodox-bashing articles. Yoffie writes that he spent much time fighting “religious fundamentalists in his own religion” He gets busy fighting Torah education in Israel , too. Footsteps, an organization dedicated to helping people leave orthodoxy has filed amicus briefs about this case. These organizations fought against the State taking into account any equivalency of Torah subjects to secular goals on the basis of “separation of church and state”. Such evidence points to the main focus of this campaign being the defeat of Orthodoxy and Torah, not concern for a few poor kids in Satmar schools who can’t read English. If these goals are not shmad than what is? You can disagree with the Satmar Rebbe, but he has the evidence on his side.

  60. Steven Brizel says:

    Stalin or Lenin used the term useful idiot to describe some temporary allies .IMO Moster deserves the same characterization

  61. Steve Brizel says:

    Professor Michael Broyde wrote in part:
    “Claims of Shmad are overblown exactly because we have never had a constituional idea that parents can practice religion with their children in any way that they wish and no matter what the cost to the children.”

    Would not Wisconsin v Yoder 406 US 205 ( 1972) and Pierce v Society of Sisters , 268 US 510 ( 1925) both stand for the contrary proposition? The Supreme Court clearly stated in Yoder:
    “a State’s interest in universal education, however highly we rank it, is not totally free from a balancing process when it impinges on fundamental rights and interests, such as those specifically protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the traditional interest of parents with respect to the religious upbringing of their children so long as they, in the words of Pierce, “prepare [them] for additional obligations.

    A public school bureacracy that would direct the teaching of diversity and so called progressive views re gender feminism and the LGBT agenda in yeshivos and parochial schools and minimize the time for teaching of religious subjects under the guise of requiring substantial equivalent curricula should be challenged if and when it seeks mandatory implementation of such curricula in the legislature and the courts on free exercise grounds.

  62. Steve Brizel says:

    Imagine if a Torah observant lawyer who was eminently qualified for the Federal bench was interrogated in the same manner as the lined nominee of Judge Barrett of the Seventh Circuit about his or her religious beliefs and practices. If you don’t think that the progressive left is looking for targets in communities of faith you are sadly mistaken and naive. On many issues we are the canary in the coal mine.

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