Orthodox Convention Debates Controversial Issue of Federal Aid to Religious Schools

The controversial issue of Federal aid to private and religious education came in for sharp disagreement today among Jewish educators all of whom are prominently identified with American Orthodox Judaism. The three-hour debate before 600 rabbis attending the annual convention of the Rabbinical Council of America, reflected the moderate, middle of the road and extreme positions that Orthodox Jewish leaders have taken on church-state issues as they relate to public support of private education.

Dr. Jacob I. Hartstein, president of Kings borough Community College in New York City, took a middle of the road position. In supporting the program administered under the Federal Education Act of 1965, Dr. Hartstein emphasized that government aid benefits now available to children attending schools under religious auspices should be viewed primarily as an opportunity “to improve and enrich educational programs, to raise quality, not as the ‘bread and butter’ of educational support and financing.”

On the other hand. Rabbi Uri Miller, a former president of the Rabbinical Council, strongly upheld the principle of the separation of church and state. He asserted that “every escalation of government aid to private and parochial schools breaks down the wall separating church and state and may harm the public school system which has been the crowning glory of the American social economy and which has brought about an integrated society.”

Rabbi Simon A, Dolgin, vice-president of the Council and active in Jewish education, assumed an extreme position by asserting that “our American democracy provides for the right of parents to select the type of education they desire for their children so long as it meets minimal requirements.” He contended that to deprive a student of state supported courses in these areas because his parents choose private schools or schools under the auspices of religious institutions is to deprive him of benefits which the state offers.

NEXT STORY