NEW YORK (JTA) — The Orthodox social justice group Uri L’Tzedek will participate in a rally to request greater state oversight of a New York school district with a majority of board members who are haredi Orthodox Jews.
The rally on Tuesday is protesting the situation in the East Ramapo district, whose board has been accused of selling school property at below-market prices to haredi Orthodox yeshivas and diverting funds from the public schools to yeshivas. The majority of residents in the district 30 miles north of New York City are haredi Jews who send their children to yeshivas rather than public schools.
In the past five years, the board has cut hundreds of staff positions and numerous extracurricular and academic programs at the public schools. District officials have said the austerity measures stem from cuts in federal and state funding rather than favoritism toward yeshivas.
The demonstration was organized by the new interfaith Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, which is rallying with the local NAACP chapter. Uri L’Tzedek is a member of the coalition.
Rabbi Ari Hart, the co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek, which also is circulating a petition, told The New York Jewish Week that the situation in East Ramapo is “a desecration of God’s name.”
“It’s a pattern of years of neglecting the broader community,” Hart said. “But there’s been no Jewish voice that has said this is not OK.”
Uri L’Tzedek’s petition says there has been an “alarming” increase of anti-Semitic incidents and sentiment in the area that the group says stems from “misunderstanding and anger at the situation.”
“As Jews, we cannot stand idly by while children suffer and while anti-Semitic tensions rise,” the petition reads. “Especially when our Jewish community, with a supermajority of the school board, is so deeply involved in this matter.”