Question and Answers

By Dr. Moshe Krakowski

Earlier this week an essay that I published in City Journal about anti-yeshiva activists in New York State appeared online.

Rabbi Adlerstein has generously invited me to discuss the article’s argument and the response to it further here, from a Jewish/frum perspective rather than to a general audience.

But first I’d like to make an important point: I cannot abide the personal cruelty and malice that often overtakes controversies of this kind. Some people have been discussing my article online as if it were a character assassination of Naftuli Moster, the head of YAFFED. Because of that – I’d like to state unequivocally that while I am extremely critical of what YAFFED does and how they do it, the criticism isn’t motivated by any kind of personal animus again Naftuli. (I absolutely think that he’s sincere and well-intentioned and believe it or not, I like him very much personally).

In the City Journal article I tried to be as careful as possible to address and discuss him respectfully, even though I disagree deeply and vehemently with YAFFED’s actions. In fact, the only hesitation that I had at all in writing this article was that I knew it would make Naftuli angry and hurt.

I’ve also received criticism about my decision to mention personal trauma as a factor in anti-yeshiva activists’ attitudes to the charedi community. But those remarks reflect accurately public statements made by many (if not all) of the activists, which I believe is relevant to the way they view charedi communities. This portion of my article was based entirely on material in the public record.

That said, while I’ve received many positive responses to the article, it’s also attracted a lot of criticism.

Fair enough. Here are some responses:

1. One of the strangest claims I’ve seen critics make is that defending charedi yeshivas against distorted media portrayals, or against efforts to enact regulations that would radically transform them (and by extension, radically reshape charedi culture) is a form of “punching down” at activists—striving to uphold a corrupt and powerful system against the wishes of the vulnerable.

But the activists aren’t the only vulnerable people in this story. Many, many charedim—including huge numbers of parents who send their children to these schools—support the schools’ autonomy (even if they might wish to change particular aspects of the way they function) and vehemently oppose YAFFED’s aims. For the most part, these people are voiceless. They aren’t activists or politicians—they don’t have the New York Times on speed dial. These people, too, are vulnerable.

I know such people exist because I speak to them routinely. How large a segment of the charedi community do they comprise? How many charedim—parents, students, community members—on the other hand, want the state to step in and force the schools to upend their curricula? How many people want more yeshivas to offer secular education, period? The truth is that no one has any idea. No one’s conducted a systematic survey to find this out. (YAFFED certainly hasn’t.) I wish someone would do so, but I suspect the answer would not be to the activists’ liking.

2. There’s a huge number of ways secular instruction might be improved in these schools without state intervention. In fact, many devoted people who don’t make the headlines are already working to improve secular education in charedi (including in chasidish) schools, whether by creating textbooks that chasidim consider “kosher” or by developing curricular materials and extra-curricular programs. For example, a wonderful organization called Code Kevudah ( is currently working to bring high-level coding classes to chasidish girls in Brooklyn and elsewhere.

But the people asking NY’s government to regulate the schools don’t pursue this route.

This is hard to understand, because in my experience charedi schools are extremely receptive to advice, guidance, materials, and programs that might help them improve the secular education that they offer—within the limits that school leaders view as religiously appropriate. In one of the schools I visited, a chassidish rebbe proudly showed me a fancy new STEM curriculum, complete with lab materials and textbooks, that had been procured by a parent in the school. Sadly, the school had nobody competent to teach this curriculum and so it was sitting in a corner of the office. It would be easy for concerned reformers to step in and help them bring this plan to life.

There are hundreds of interventions of this kind that could be made, which wouldn’t change the fundamental approach the chassidish community takes towards life, but would still allow kids to get the best secular education possible within the time schools allot to secular subjects.

3. But perhaps such improvements aren’t really the point. One of the most frustrating aspects of this debate has been the anti-yeshiva activists’ constant moving of goalposts. Most of the media accounts about this controversy focus on charedim. But the regulations that the activists support, and that NY State developed in response to their requests, would regulate all yeshivas in the state, not only charedi ones.

Discussion of this point tends to go like this: First, one might note that a school like Ramaz hardly needs the state to step in and reshape its curriculum. Supporters of the regulations then respond that of course Modern Orthodox schools aren’t the issue here—the issue is charedi schools.

OK; but the vast majority of yeshivish schools don’t teach in Yiddish and tend to offer a more robust secular education than chasidish schools—one that usually continues through high school, and that often includes the Regents tests.

“Yes, but this isn’t about them; it’s about chasidish schools.”

But as part of my fieldwork I gathered data in four chasidish schools on YAFFED’s list (including some of those deemed “worst” with respect to secular education); I sat in on classes, took detailed field notes, coded them, analyzed them, and wrote some popular articles about what the minimal secular education they offer actually looks like. The response was incredulity and outrage—these schools aren’t representative; you can’t have gone to Satmar or Skver—and don’t you know that Oholei Torah has no secular education at all?

Without revealing which schools I’ve actually visited, it’s worth noting that by the time the conversation gets to this point, we’ve narrowed down activists’ claims from the 170,000 or so kids in NY State enrolled in Jewish private schools to literally a handful of institutions (and that’s even if we accept that the claims made about these institutions are correct, which given YAFFED’s track record—and based on my own observations—I don’t).

By blurring such distinctions in the public press, opponents of the yeshivas conjure up a far more wide-ranging problem from the one they actually appear to be targeting. (It takes real chutzpah for these same activists to then complain when the Agudah or PEARLS respond by using the same sleight of hand to highlight high-performing charedi schools). But in fact, even if we were to accept the claims being made about this handful of schools (which, again, I see no reason to take at face value), a handful of schools offering insufficient secular education is not a reason for the state to begin regulating all the Yeshivas in the state, especially when such a move raises major questions about religious freedom.

4. The press and public (including many Modern Orthodox people who don’t know much about charedim) tend to accept uncritically sweeping claims about rampant abuse, fraud, poverty, suffering, racism, and other social problems within charedi communities. Yet none of these claims are backed up systematic data of any kind.


They’re based on anecdotal evidence and “common knowledge” (otherwise known as prejudice). In the few cases where we do have hard data, “common knowledge” tends to turn out to be mistaken—for example, when it comes to basic employment and income data for even the most isolated, Yiddish-speaking communities (as I noted in the City Journal article).

Even the one area where there is some data from the U.S. census, poverty numbers are usually presented without providing absolute incomes, but rather by focusing on benefits. But if you have nine children you are eligible for benefits even if you make close to $100,000 a year. It’s very hard to argue that education is causing poverty when in objective numbers the men who are receiving this education are making pretty average incomes.

Does this mean that charedim are perfect? Of course not. Charedi communities are complicated, messy, human societies, home to all sorts of dysfunction, tensions, and problems—as are all human societies. The problems deserve to be studied in a real way. But that work has not been done. Very little in-depth research of any kind exists on how American charedi communities work.

In the meantime, I would caution outsiders who accept such “common knowledge” about charedim at face value to ask themselves how they would feel if they heard the same kinds of claims being made about any other social group or community in the country. I can’t imagine it, and to be honest, I am sometimes shocked by how people whom I know to be personally kind, wonderful, sincere people, engage in rank bigotry when it comes to charedim.

5. The proposed state regulations at stake are not trivial but radical. They would entirely transform the nature of education within charedi schools, forcing them to resemble something like modern Orthodox ones. For many people, the result would be the government mandating that children be educated according to a religious-cultural model that violates their religious beliefs.

As I mentioned in the article but is worth repeating here, America has a long sad history of using education to wipe out minority beliefs and religions. In the 1870s the US Government began systematically removing American Indian children from reservations and sending them to boarding schools designed to assimilate them into American society. One of the leaders of this movement famously stated that its goal was to, “kill the Indian, and save the man.” These leaders were the liberals of their time; unlike many contemporaries who viewed Indians as helpless savages, they thought that it was Indian culture that needed eradicating in order to “save” the people being held hostage by that culture. Such leaders pointed to Indians’ poverty levels, “barbaric” cultural practices, and to perceptions of theft and dishonesty within Indian communities. In these schools students were given new English names, were forbidden from speaking native languages, and were given English haircuts and uniforms (names, language and clothing).

Of course, they never asked whether any of these children or their parents actually wanted to go:

“Indian parents also banded together to withdraw their children en masse, encouraging runaways and undermining the schools’ influence during summer and school breaks. An 1893 court ruling increased pressure to keep Indian children in Boarding schools. It was not until 1978 with the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act that Native American parents gained the legal right to deny their children’s placement in off-reservation schools.

Some Native American parents saw boarding school education for what it was intended to be — the total destruction of Indian culture. Others objected to specific aspects of the education system, the manner of discipline and the drilling. Still others were concerned for their children’s health and associated the schools with death. Resentment of the boarding schools was most severe because the schools broke the most sacred and fundamental of all human ties, the parent-child bond.”


Whole cultures were lost and religious practices disappeared as a result of the State mandating secular education for these American Indian children.

* * *

Finally, as long as Rabbi Adlerstein has graciously given me a platform, I’d like to briefly talk about myself. Apologies for the solipsism. But over the last year, people who don’t like what I’ve written on this subject have made many claims about me on social media. For example:

  • I’m a useful idiot, being played by the PEARLS and the Agudah.
  • I’m a mendacious (academic) criminal who lies to support the Yeshivas (whether or not I’m getting paid to lie is the subject of some dispute).
  • I have no idea how different these schools are from the Modern Orthodox schools I am used to.
  • I’m hiding the names of the schools I visited (obviously, because they aren’t really the schools people are concerned about).
  • If I had attended these schools myself I wouldn’t make the claims I’m making.

For the record: I certainly understand the difference between charedi and Modern Orthodox schools. I myself am a product of charedi schools. My schooling was (in order): Cheder Lubavitch of Chicago, Brisk Yeshiva in Chicago (headed by R. Aharon Soloveichik, zt”l, and now closed), Yeshiva Sha’ar Hatorah in Queens, Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University. While at Chicago and Northwestern I learned for nine years every night together with the Mechanchim Night Kollel at the Chicago Community Kollel, and for a few years together with a small chabura run by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer.

As for my elementary education (K-8)—yes, it really was all in Yiddish. So much so that I dreamt in Yiddish for years and was embarrassed at my Litvish day camp when I didn’t know the English translations for chumash words (since I only teitched into Yiddish). Indeed, many of our rebbeim were new immigrants from the USSR, and learned all their English from their students. And no, we really didn’t have more secular education than in the schools at the heart of this controversy: barely any science, and a mostly English and math focused curriculum.

I’m also not a useful idiot. Here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve been studying education in charedi (both yeshivish and chasidish) schools since approximately 2003. I chose this course of study partly because of my own experiences in these schools. My interests lie in learning practices, culture, worldview formation, and the intersection between classroom practices and communal practices and beliefs.

Because I speak Yiddish, I understand what’s happening in these schools and I’m familiar with their curricula. (I’m also well aware of how some schools perform for guests and what they do differently when outsiders are around.)

A number of people seem to believe that I just credulously repeat whatever the Agudah tells me, while discounting claims made by ex-chasidim. But they have it backwards. I probably know more than the Agudah about what goes on in the different chassidish schools, because the Agudah busies itself with things like policy on a grand scale, which I am uninterested in as a scholar, while I am interested in the nuts and bolts of schooling.

My academic work doesn’t seek to pass judgment one way or the other on American charedim or charedi culture.

I don’t focus specifically on potential dysfunction that may exist in charedi society. This is not because such social problems—to the extent that they exist—aren’t worthy of study (of course they are)—but because they tend not to be directly relevant to the questions I’m examining. This is hardly unusual. Not every scholar who works on public education, or on Catholic education, or on Muslim education, focuses on illiteracy, or bullying, or school violence, or other social problems in those contexts.

Nor does my research aim to pass judgment whether charedi culture itself is historically authentic (whatever that might mean), or “bad” or “good.”

The aim rather is to understand how classroom practices actually work in the very large number of charedi schools that exist in the United States—why school administrators set things up the way they do, how aspects of student learning work, what parents who choose to send their children to these schools think about them, and how school practices impact aspects of charedi communal culture. It is the intersection of communal religious worldview and school culture and practice that has been the focus of nearly all of my work. These are very typical questions in other educational domains (again, public education, Catholic education, etc.). I study them using standard social science research methods (I collect curricular material; observe and videotape classes; conduct long, in-depth qualitative interviews with parents, teachers, administrators and students, about what they’re learning and how it fits into the rest of their lives; and then code and analyze the data I’ve gathered).

For many years nobody besides academic journals took an interest in my work.

However, when this controversy erupted, I felt that I needed to speak up. As noted, I’m dismayed by the extreme hostility and prejudice towards charedim expressed by many people (including, sadly, Modern Orthodox Jews) who know very little about them, but think they know a lot. And I’m dismayed by the misinformation YAFFED and other activists have circulated (here I don’t just mean impressionistic misinformation, but also basic factual and demographic errors).

No one asked me to speak up in this way. I was not approached by any yeshiva, nor by the Agudah, nor by PEARLS. These groups are obviously pleased with what I’ve written, since I am largely in support of their position, but my writing is a product of my own research and experiences.

I also haven’t received a penny from any of these groups, although I did receive a small grant from the Mandel Center at Brandeis University to conduct further research in chasidic schools.

As for the question of transparency: something that people outside of academia may not appreciate is that human subject research is governed by very strict ethical rules. All universities have oversight boards, called IRBs, that govern research protocols to insure they are being conducted ethically, including with appropriate protection for subjects’ privacy. This is most relevant in medical research, but also applies to the social sciences. One of the basic requirements of research is anonymity. If I conduct fieldwork in a school (observing, videotaping, interviewing, etc.), I must promise the IRB that the school and students will remain private – that no identifying features will be released. A researcher who violates these guidelines would be in serious trouble. Given the outrage my perspective has sparked, it would honestly be a lot easier for me personally to state specifically which chasidish schools’ on YAFFED’s list I visited, but unfortunately, I cannot do so.

Finally, it is important for me to say that I appreciate very much anyone who chooses to speak to me rather than about me. I can be reached at [email protected], and no matter how much you hate what I have to say, I’m happy to talk about my work, my findings, and my opinions.

I can be reached at [email protected].

Post Script

I am sorry to once more bore readers of this site with details of my personal biography.

Over the last week people who disagree with my essay about the yeshiva controversy have made many false claims about me on social media platforms. My earlier post on Cross-Currents was an attempt to set the record straight and to explain where my work is coming from. I guess I should have predicted what would happen next: I was accused of lying in that post, too.

A historian (and long-time friendly colleague of mine) has now claimed in a widely-read social media post that I’m making up parts of my own life story, and that it’s not true that my elementary school taught all in Yiddish and had minimal secular education.

He “knows this” because he’s familiar with Cheder Lubavitch of Chicago – his own kids went there in recent years – and in his experience, the school uses Yiddish only superficially and has more secular education than this. He “can’t understand why (Krakowski) would say something that is so easily disproven by anyone who attended the school, or sent their kids there.” The takeaway: “If he says something so seemingly untrue here, it reinforces for me questions about everything else.”

Personally, what I don’t understand is how a professional historian could make such a serious accusation without pausing to first check the facts – without investigating the school’s history, or asking me (the person being accused of lying) to clarify. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to someone whose job it is to study history that institutions change over time.

I’m not lying or mistaken about my time at the boy’s Cheder Lubavitch of Chicago. Throughout most of the 1980s, instruction there was entirely in Yiddish and with minimal (80 minutes/day) English/secular education. In those years the school was very different from how it is now in other ways as well – it was a school that drew from many sectors of the Chicago frum community, including Litvaks (and even Telsers!) and other chasidim, and it was the only school in Chicago that offered Yiddish instruction.  

Over time the school’s profile changed completely for a number of reasons: Rav Shach increased his opposition to the Rebbe and yeshivish people began to pull away from Chabad. The Rebbe had a stroke and then died, which changed Chabad itself significantly. As Chabad began to be more isolated from other charedi groups than it had been before, the Veitzener Cheder opened in Chicago and non-Lubavitch Yiddish-speaking families switched their kids there. And the Chabad Cheder itself began to absorb many more children of recent baalei teshuva. Thanks to all of these changes, by sometime in the late 80s/early 90s, the use of Yiddish in the Cheder Lubavitch of Chicago began to decline and the secular studies changed in many ways as well. Eventually it turned into the school that my colleague is familiar with. These changes didn’t directly affect my graduating class, though (I graduated in 1992, and the younger grades had begun to change already by that time, but my class still learned on the old model), and I would be happy to supply anyone who still thinks I may be lying about this with contact information for my own former classmates. All of them can confirm my experience of the school.

I did ask my colleague to correct the record, and offered to put him in touch with my classmates, but aside from changing the charge that I’m “lying” to a suggestion that perhaps I’m simply mistaken about my own childhood, he declined to do so.

So I’ve posted this here, because being accused of lying is a big deal. I thought it was worth responding to this particular accusation, because it came from a colleague whom I respect, was read and apparently believed by many other people I know and respect—and because it illustrates how easily false accusations of this kind can be made and believed, even when a bit of research would reveal that they’re untrue.

However, this will be the last post of its kind (hopefully). From now on I plan to stop paying attention or responding to claims made about me or my work behind my back. If anyone thinks that anything I’ve said in print is untrue, I encourage you to contact me directly about it. I’ll be happy to clarify, or, if it turns out that I did make a mistake, to correct the record on my end.

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66 Responses

  1. Dovid Kasten says:

    Great article. Strong, full of well thought out ideas, and extremely clear!
    Have to argue with one of the first points, though. There’s no reason to apologize for hurting the feelings of one who goes full out to destroy your way of life, no matter how well meaning he is. Especially when you have a Mesorah to back you up…

  2. Schmerel says:

    Some people have been discussing my article online as if it were a character assassination of Naftuli Moster, the head of YAFFED.

    Say that it was. Why it is wrong? If NM was a guy who went OTD and is currently minding his own business I understand but when you have someone who is the business of attacking and fighting with Yeshivas and the frum world why is attacking his character off limits?

    Why is it different than the majority of the anti-Trump articles which boiled down to little more than attacks on his character? Do the critics have issues with that too?

    • Kalman C says:

      What is wrong with attacking trump’s character? I can certainly understand that his administration was better than the democratic alternative, but I could not vote for him because he is a thief, a liar, a grifter con artist, a corrupt, failed businessman, mean, adulterous, a corrupter of the morals of those who identify as his followers, (rather than mere voters of expdiency) and more.
      I’m sure this comment is late but i am tired of the mendacity and willful ignorance of basic torahdik behavioral standards.

      • Tal S. Benschar says:

        First of all, his point is there is nothing wrong with attacking someone’s character. So you are agreeing with him.

        Secondly, there are many who voted for Trump despite his numerous flaws, not because of them, because we believed the alterntive was worse. You calling it “willful ignorance of basic torahdik behavioral standards” avoids that reality.

        Since we are making late comments, let me point out one thing that was almost ignored in the last election. The ruling group in Iran has openly stated that they hope to develop nuclear weapons and launch them on Tel Aviv, and have openly called for the elimination of Israel. That means Holoicaust II on the Mediterranean, rachmana litzlan.

        One side foolishly appeased this group, in a vain hope they would voluntarily give up the nukes. The other side abandoned that foolishness and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Which hurt them, and clearly, alebit slowly, undermined their grip on power.

        We are now going back to the appeaser group. The lives of millions of your fellow Jews are now at greater risk. What do your Torah standards say about that?

      • KMC says:

        response to Tal:
        i clearly said i understand “voters of expediency”.
        I just have a hard time understanding those who insist that any criticism of trump is treason, or TDS. I have had discussions with people in Brooklyn who say if trump said nice things about Saddam Hussein he cant have been that bad, or maybe talk of gassing Kurds is fake news.
        That credulousness and lack of moral backbone (on the cheap, mind you) is what leaves me frustrated and despondent for our nation of ought-to-be smart, sophisticated and morally upright yidden.

  3. Tal Benschar says:

    Anyone who welcomes state interference in religious education should consider the experience of our brethren in the UK. Several years ago, a Vizhnitz girls school, that otherwise had excellent academic achievement, was “failed” by the British UK education authorities, because it failed to teach the girls about homosexuality, as required by Britiish law.

    One British newspaper quoted the report of the education authorities:

    The report explained that the girls “are not taught explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation. This restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles.

    If you don’t think this is coming to the U.S., you have your head in the sand. The same arguments to require religious schools to teach algebra and Shakespeare can and will be used to require them to teach about homosexuality.

    • David Ohsie says:

      We’re not talking about girls schools where they do get a secular education. We’re talking about the boys schools where they get no secular education past eight grade and no high school diploma. The frum schools where all the readers of this blog send their kids all provide secular education while maintaining their stance against gay rights.

      • lacosta says:

        the RFRA type laws , that are the thin blue line that keeps haimishe practitioners out of jail for practicing their religion where it conflicts with PC orthodoxies , are a majour target of the activists who are fellow travelers of the incoming administration —and especially after President Harris takes office…

      • David Ohsie says:

        American citizens learning English is hardly a PC Orthodoxy

    • Nachum says:

      These kids should be taught secular subjects regardless of the greater agenda of the state (which I share your revulsion of). That they’re trying to push homosexuality is no excuse not to teach important matters.

    • Tal Benschar says:

      Both of you are simply ignoring the point. The issue is not whether secular education in some Chassidic schools needs to be improved. The question is whether to welcome the power of the state to force what you believe are appropriate changes.

      Once you allow the state to force changes you want, what will stop it from forcing changes you don’t want? If the state can say that an educational system that fails to teach Shakespeare and algebra is illegal because it fails to prepare its students for the world, then it can also say that an educational system that fails to educate its students about LGBT rights, or whatever other mishigas they think of, is inadequate and illegal.

      It is not an answer to say, you can have one kind of change without the other. The secular powers don’t see a difference. To paraphrase Abe Rosenthal, “Sweethearts, by you, you are Park Avenue, by your wife you are Park Avenue, but by [the bureaucrats] you are a Hasid.”

      And even the current proposal, as I understand it, would require many more hours of secular studies than even most Modern Orthodox schools provide. So that means the quantity and quality of Torah study in all Orthodox schools will suffer.

      We had the same issue a few years ago when metzitzah b’peh was a hot topic. Many gedolim opposed that, and there are many kehillos that don’t allow it. (A well-know Mohel who did my older son used to do it through a tube.)

      At the time there were many who welcomed the state banning it. That was foolish. If the state can ban metzitzah b’peh, it can ban bris milah (at least for anyone under 18).

      As Dr. Krakowski points out, the facts are not as bad as many make them out to be, and improvement can be had through voluntary methods. That is commendable. Using the state to force changes against religious objections is not.

      The Ramban in Parshas Vayechi points out that the golus Mitzrayim is a sign of golus Edom. Among other things, he points out that in Bayis Sheni, the powers in EY made a bris with the Roman powers, and that ended up with total domination, then destruction of the Beis ha Mikdash and then a seemingly endless golus.

      • David Ohsie says:

        “Both of you are simply ignoring the point. The issue is not whether secular education in some Chassidic schools needs to be improved.” Sorry, yes, this is the issue. It’s not a question of “improvement”. The boys high schools have no secular studies. This is not poorly done secular studies. It is a conscious decision to avoid them. The boys don’t get diplomas and come out illiterate in English with math skills less than my 7th grader. There’s a very simple solution. Provide secular studies. You want to avoid the secular authorities being invasive, then do what all the other Orthodox do anyhow and what you do for the girls. There is no real chance that elected officials who depend on the chassidic bloc vote are going to do anything drastic, but if you concerned about that, then tell the various Rebbes and askanim that they need to clean up their act because they are causing a problem for Orthodox Jews.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        If the courts in the EU can sustain a ban on shechitah, you can be sure that someone in Europe will raise a claim RL against Bris Milah on the fallacious ground that the child has no choice. IIRC, there was a case against Bris Milah in California which a federal court BH dismissed. Such arguments have a way of being accepted in far left liberal circles in the US especially among those who view the Constitution as “evolving” and who emphasize the Establishment Clause at the expense of the Free Exercise Clause.

    • Bob Miller says:

      In the socialist state we hope to avoid b’ezrat HaShem, freedom of choice for all communities dwindles and vanishes. The socialists view each victory as just a stepping-stone to total control.

  4. David Ohsie says:

    Neither of your articles actually addresses the problem. These boys get almost no secular studies before high school and then none at all in high school. They come out illiterate in the English language and with very limited skills in math with almost no knowledge of science. Their high school graduation rate is zero because they don’t get high school diplomas. You would not tolerate such lack of education for your kids nor would any of the readers of this blog.

    The assertion that this would completely remake the entire chassidishe education system and cultures is without foundation. The Litvish are able to produce talmidei chachimim at the same time that they provide secular studies and the Chaddishe places manage to keep their girls in their culture despite giving them secular studies.

  5. nt says:

    I teach third grade at a mostly chassidic school where the morning instruction is in yiddish. Dr. Krakowski’s description is accurate. The parents uniformly want their children to do well in English, including some who contact me daily after class. The school provides tutoring for students who need extra help, and parents have their kids tested for learning disabilities where appropriate. All of the kids can speak English, and some read and write above grade level.

    • David Ohsie says:

      That’s wonderful. So then you agree that the parents want their kids to get a secular education and all schools should be doing so. That is YAFFED’s position.

      • Yossi says:

        I don’t understand you. The state clearly stated that their agenda was even to force the schools to teach culture, drama, and all sorts of things that many in the Orthodox community have no interest in.

        Based on the guidelines the state proposed, even $30,000/year fancy Modern Orthodox schools would be found non-compliant.

        Moster certainly hasn’t shown an interest in working with the schools.

        David, have you found people more compliant when you work with them or against them? What is your specific issue that makes you side with him?

      • nt says:

        I’m not too familiar with YAFFED, but it sounds like they want to micromanage what and how the schools teach. The parents don’t want their kids to have a prepackaged general studies curriculum that may clash with their values. They do want their kids to have learn math and language skills in a way that enriches, rather than conflicts with their Torah studies. They also would not want a meaningless time requirement that takes away from their other studies without adding value.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        IWADR, Yaffed is anti Yeshiva stalking horse. Take a look at Yaffed’s board. Eric Yoffee former head of RJ ‘s rabbinical body is not known as a friend of or advocate for Yeshivos or Orthodoxy. Marci Hamilton, whose report Yaffed relies on, is a professor of constitutional law whose writings , advocacy , public appearances and litigation history are aimed at minimizing the Free Exercise Clause, especially with respect to Torah committed Jews. Her description of how Charedi families raise their children is unacceptable, to use the most polite description possible.

      • David Ohsie says:

        “The parents don’t want their kids to have a prepackaged general studies curriculum that may clash with their values. They do want their kids to have learn math and language skills in a way that enriches, rather than conflicts with their Torah studies.”

        Yes, but the Chassidishe boys high schools do none of that. They don’t have any secular studies. The “graduates” don’t get diplomas and the kids graduate illiterate in English and weaker math skills than my 7th grader. Part of this is the very deficient and limited education that they get in the lower grades. That is the problem.

      • Dovid says:

        Mr. Ohsie, apparently you have zero interest in the nuances presented by Dr. Krakowski. Also, your comment “we are not talking about the girls’ schools” demonstrates how you unwittingly validated his accusation of habitual goal-post moving. Despite your strident feelings, could you please consider an alternative to your punishment-driven approach?

  6. Bob Miller says:

    The NYC public school system and many others in NY State have educational and disciplinary problems that are frequent and severe, and that should now demand the total attention of the authorities. It’s no wonder that distractions appeal to them, as opposed to getting their own houses in order.

    • David Ohsie says:

      No one is asking them to become the NYC public school system. The schools that you send/sent/would send your kids to provide secular education along with Torah education.

      • Bob Miller says:

        David Ohsie,

        Please re-read my comment. I’m pointing out that these authorities are neglecting duties in their own backyard, which should get far more of their attention, as opposed to their usual negligence and incompetence. This syndrome is a general problem with governments.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Bob Miller, that frum Jewish kids who are growing up illiterate in English are not helped by the fact that the NYC schools have problems. I’d be very happy if the NYC public schools stayed the same and the plight of these children was addressed. What NYS and NYC do or don’t do well is a distraction from the tragedy.

  7. joel rich says:

    So do I understand you to say that the state has no right to regulate private education? Whether the state is doing a good job in public education is not the question.

    • rkz says:

      The state has no “rights” whatsoever.
      Indeed, the state has no business in regulating private education (and “public education” has no moral justification)

      • joel rich says:

        the state disagrees – so see comment below

      • Reb Yid says:

        The state has every right if the Yeshivot are receiving aid from it.

        And that they are.

      • rkz says:

        As I wrote many times before, I live in eretz yisrael, Barukh Hashem.
        That does not mean I should not worry about the tyranny of foreign countries that seek to control Jews who are still in the Galut.

      • Mycroft says:

        Once one accepts that there mandatory school attendance rules, it is at least certainly implicit that the state has the right to determine what type of schooling satisfies the school aspect. Thus, certainly a state has the right to ensure that minor children are not educationally neglected by their parents.
        This comment is not discussing one way or the other does any particular school satisfy the states legitimate requirements for minors to be educated in certain ways

      • Steven Brizel says:

        The state has no right in regulating the choice of where parents send their children to school, particularly if they decide on a religious basis to send to a yeshiva or parochial school where parents seek a religious education and the amount and degree of secular studies deemed appropriate by the school’s administration and parents. Public school advocates and teachers are quite blunt in stating that parents’ rights with respect to how children are educated end at the school door. I would suspect that many yeshiva parents if not all would object to a secular curriculum rooted in progressive intersectional ideology of any kind.

      • lacosta says:

        but rkz, the government of the Zionist entity certainly tries to impose its requirements on haredi schools there….

      • rkz says:

        lacosta, I assume you are joking. The Israeli govt. indeed tries to bully the charedi system, but much less and with no success

    • Bob Miller says:

      Joel, what do we as Jews do about a state too incompetent and invested in leftist secular ideology to use even its legal powers properly?

      • joel rich says:

        exactly what the rambam tells us in hilchot deot 6:1

        It is natural for a man’s character and actions to be influenced by his friends and associates and for him to follow the local norms of behavior. Therefore, he should associate with the righteous and be constantly in the company of the wise, so as to learn from their deeds. Conversely, he should keep away from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds.

        This is [implied by] Solomon’s statement (Proverbs 13:20): “He who walks with the wise will become wise, while one who associates with fools will suffer.” Similarly, [Psalms 1:1] states: “Happy is the man who has not followed the advice of the wicked.”

        A person who lives in a place where the norms of behavior are evil and the inhabitants do not follow the straight path should move to a place where the people are righteous and follow the ways of the good.

        If all the places with which he is familiar and of which he hears reports follow improper paths, as in our times, or if he is unable to move to a place where the patterns of behavior are proper, because of [the presence of] bands of raiding troops, or for health reasons, he should remain alone in seclusion as [Eichah 3:28] states: “Let him sit alone and be silent.”

        If they are wicked and sinful and do not allow him to reside there unless he mingle with them and follow their evil behavior, he should go out to caves, thickets, and deserts [rather than] follow the paths of sinners as [Jeremiah 9:1] states: “Who will give me a lodging place for wayfarers, in the desert.”


      • Bob Miller says:

        Joel, if governments everywhere are now corrupt and intrusive, and know exactly where to find us, what then?

    • Steven Brizel says:

      The state has no right to claim that public education and especially the curriculum offered therein supersedes the constitutional rights of parents to provide a religious education with the degree and amount of secular education that parents , as opposed to the state, deem appropriate. Public school teachers make no bones about the fact that parents rights end at the door of the public schools.

      • lacosta says:

        their rights will increase when the left gets RFRA type laws outlawed , thus allowing PC considerations to override any religious rights one had in the past….

  8. David Ohsie says:

    “I myself am a product of charedi schools.” Did you receive a high school diploma to enable you to enter college? Then you did not attend the kinds of boys high schools that YAFFED report on which have no secular studies and do not award HS diplomas.

    • nt says:

      According to Dr. Krakowski’s description, YAFFED’s reporting is flawed to the point of being useless. I can’t imagine having a serious discussion about a report that describes non-existent schools.

      • David Ohsie says:

        I’ll Dr. Krakowski wants to deny such high schools exist, he is free to do so. I don’t think that he will because it would destroy his credibility as these schools are well known to exist. If you’d like to see for your self, go on a visit to KJ or New Square and find all of the young people who you can’t communicate with in English. BTW it is pretty insulting the those Chassidim to make these claims. They pride themselves on the fact that Torah is the only thing they have in boys high schools from morning to night.

      • nt says:

        You must not have read the article. Dr. Krakowski did not say no such schools exist; he said the YAFFED report describes many specific schools that do not exist. A report like that is not worth reading or discussing.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Krakowski has written a superb article on his findings as well as the agenda ofYaffed which is an Yeshiva stalking horse No Yeshiva regardless of its hashkafic orientation should agree to or be forced to teach any part of its secular studies that are rooted in the junk science known as critical racial theory gender studies or that is even remotely related to any other part of the intersectional progressive post modern left No Yeshiva should for any reason teach such fallacious junk as white privilege gender is a social construct or that a child can have two Daddies or Mommies or that men have periods and can give birth to children We err as a community if we think that bureaucrats who view their job as to expand rather than contract the areas and targets of their regulations will stop with Chasidishe outliers To paraphrase a vivid metaphor the scope of administrative regulations will start with the outliers and if not resisted by by the Torsh community in unity will affect yeshivishe and MO schools simply because of administratrive inertia and the myopic view that it doesn’t affect our sector or niche of Klal Yisrael .That would be IMO and WADR a villas also mistake

    • David Ohsie says:

      This makes no sense. This has nothing to do with critical racial theory or gender studies. We’re taking about teaching boys a basic secular studies curriculum that the non-Chassidic Yeshivas teach and that the Chassidim teach their own girls! We’re talking about literacy in the English language. Go visit New Square and try to speak English to the young people (let alone try to get them to read something as advanced as newspaper). It won’t work because they are illiterate in English. It’s very odd seeing Jews who have decent educations and would not dare sending their kids to a school with no secular studies telling Jewish boys that they don’t get to have get the same.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Wake up and smell the coffee Curriculums in public schools all over the US are being subjected to demands that critical racial theory gender studies and the like be included as a matter of course therein If you don’t think yeshivos will be subjected to such ideological demands that are implemented on a state wide basis IMO that is evidence of communal self delusion on a massive scale

      • Steven I Brizel says:

        All over the US school administrators and state and local school boards who are under attack from the progressive intersectional left which has strong Marxist and anti Semitic components to its ideology are implementing demands for unfounded radical junk science such as racial critical theory, gender theory, the 1619 Project etc as part of science and social science in public schools. If you think that yeshivos, regardless of their hasghkafa, shuls and oiur families are not a target of this junk which is aided and abetted by administrators who love expanding their fiats , WADR and IMO, you are living in a fool’s paradise

      • Schmerel says:

        What you are saying is about the same as saying:

        Go to (…community of Yaffed supporters) and see how many of them can pick up a random Gemorah and understand it without Artscroll. Let alone discuss with them a difficult Tosfos.

        It is because these people don’t have sufficient Jewish education. It’s very odd seeing Jews who have decent Jewish educations and would not dream of sending their children to schools where they will probably end up that way allowing Jewish boys to go to schools where they won’t get the same.

        You can nitpick with the above but I’m not going out on a limb here by saying that the typical Yaffed supporters , even if frum, would not be able to pick up a random Gemorah and understand it without Artscroll. Should the people who find that lack of knowledge and understating absolutely appalling have the right to dictate the curriculum of the schools their children go to?

        In the end this really boils down to the rights of the majority to force their educational values on the minority. I don’t believe such rights exist.

      • Yossi says:


        Those educated people, myself included, definitely think these kids SHOULD get a secular education. What we disagree with is whether the state should force them, and whether we should side with the state in intervening or not.

        I’ll give you an example. I’m pro science, pro vaccination, college educated, etc. Recently, there was a bill proposed (but not yet brought for a vote) in the NYS legislature making certain vaccines administrable even against parent’s will, and even without their knowledge.

        When I saw that, I thought to myself that I certainly would fight AGAINST that, because the government is crossing a boundary. Same here.

        Especially considering that most Yeshiva educated people do fine in their society, and do make a living.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Yossi: Thank you for the considered comment. Two responses:

        1) You appear to be mostly agreeing with me that there is a problem here. The purpose of the post is to claim that in fact there is no real issue to start with and that Chassidic high schools with zero secular studies and 0% graduation rates and graduates illiterate in English don’t exist.

        2) I’m quite libertarian and I think that there are probably more ideal ways of solving the problem, but there is literally no other solution that has been proposed or is being pursued. Groups like PEARLS are out there to simply claim there is no problem. Setting aside the Chassidic context, if a neighbor decided that they simply were not going to send their kids to school and teach them to read and write English and do basic math, that would be child neglect where some government intervention would be warranted. In NY, the intervention is self-limiting because in fact the Chassidim are, to their credit, very politically organized and no politician has an interest in really pressing the issue too hard.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Schmerel: I’m not following you argument. The claim here is not that the boys Chassidishe high schools don’t teach Calculus. They don’t *any* secular studies. They leave the schools illiterate in English and innumerate as well. I don’t know if I’m a typical Yaffed supporter, and I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, but I don’t use Artscroll. I’ll admit to using Jastrow for the more difficult (for me) Aramaic passages. My kids go to BY and Yeshiva.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Steven Brizel: “Wake up and smell the coffee Curriculums in public schools”. Thank God that there are plenty of Yeshivas that have a secular curriculum that they can copy or they can copy the secular curriculum from their own Girls schools. I’m not sure what the public schools have to do with this.

  10. dr. bill says:

    If the situation was not deteriorating, it might be appropriate to engage in intelligent debate. Unfortunately, it is; and while having government authorities step in not even close to ideal, unfortunately, no one has proposed a credible alternative.

    I fear that any intellectual support, even if partially correct, will encourage further deterioration. Addressing the wrong topic even with some insight is still paying attention to the wrong area.

    We are heading into disaster along multiple dimensions; this is but one.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Dr Bill ( and all other readers)-if you think that the universities of 2021 in any way are institutions of intellectual inquiry, take a look at this article. //

  11. David Ohsie says:

    You write: “Even the one area where there is some data from the U.S. census, poverty numbers are usually presented without providing absolute incomes, but rather by focusing on benefits.”

    This New York Times article from 2011 says that Kiryas Joel has the lowest household median income of any comparable town in the US. Were they incorrect?

    “Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.”

    • Dovid Kasten says:

      But are they happy? Are they moral? Are they good Jews? Money is not everything…
      Perhaps get your priorities from a place other than the NY Times and you’ll understand just about every other commenter on this article and also the mainstream Torah Hashkofos on life…

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Dovid Kasten: It was the Dr. Krakowski and not I who brought up high poverty numbers in Chassidic communities. However, the post falsely implied that the poverty numbers were driven by family size and not low income. This is relevant to the fact that almost complete lack of secular education in KJ does in fact make it very difficult to make a parnassa that can support a family and requires them to rely on government transfer payments from the US taxpayer and Tzedakah.

        Also, in contrast to your comment, the NYT article does not portray the community as deficient because its high poverty. On the contrary the article points out in the very first paragraph that the poverty numbers do not correlate to disfunction in these communities: “The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.”

      • dr. bill says:

        Moral? not in halakhic terms. Stealing from the government is not moral, just consider the use of funding for computers in elementary school. There are many other questionable practices, but this one is as clear as day.

  12. Jeff Schwartz says:

    I agree that inviting governmental oversight of religious schools is a slippery slope that can have disastrous results. On the other hand, if a community puts itself a situation where a substantial portion of its people support themselves with public benefits, it needs to expect that the government will try to step in to resolve the problem.

    • Schmerel says:

      I haven’t seen the government do so for any other groups.

      Making an issue about overreliance on government programs would be absolutely antithetical to the politicians and general public who are on board with Yaffed (e.g. New York Times writers and readers)

      Which is another reason the hidden agenda behind this is being hidden so poorly

  13. I have a rather lengthy response to both of Dr. Krakowski’s articles. It is located here:

    • Steven Brizel says:

      WADR, I think that the issues remain that of imposing an unwarranted curriculum and bureaucrats imposing controls as in the UK, which is a pretext to eliminating any aid for secular purposes. if you don’t think that the PC intersectional progressive left has its eyes on the Torah observant community and its institutions, you are missing a major factor that is prevalent and growing in many states of the US that will pose issues with respect to our ability to maintain our families and institutions in the US

      • the importance of one issue should not mean ignoring another one. the problem with focusing only on the religious rights issue is that it allows virtually all Chasidic Jews in communities like Kiryas Joel and new Square to be denied a decent secular education and thereby remain uneducated and ignorant.

  14. Steven Brizel says:

    Myxcroft wrote:

    “Once one accepts that there mandatory school attendance rules, it is at least certainly implicit that the state has the right to determine what type of schooling satisfies the school aspect. Thus, certainly a state has the right to ensure that minor children are not educationally neglected by their parents.”

    This is the opening wedge of the intersectional progressive left to the effect that once there is a mandatory attendance requirement, then the state can use that as a wedge to dictate secular curriculums. One can argue that mandatory attendance has nothing to do with the amount and type of secular education desired and sought by parents.

    WADR, I am not sure that the decisions of SCOTUS which involved the Amish back in the 1970s and 1920s would agree with that comment. IIRC, the SCOTUS and certainly the NY Court of Appeals have also rejected any cause of action for “educational neglect” or “educational malpractice.”

  15. Steven Brizel says:

    If you don’t think that the intersectional progressive left sees free exercise of religion as an obstacle to its goals you are deluding yourself. and how the forces of the woke view K-12 education, read this essay // and any of the linked articles on how the AZ of social justice has invaded and conquered academia, media and the corporate world.

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