Welcome ‘Concern’ About Lack Of Secular Studies


For several years there have been attempts to convince New York educational authorities that a number of charedi boys yeshivas teach fewer than the minimum hours of state-required secular studies. Now comes Betty Rosa, chancellor of the New York Board of Regents, who says she believes that some of the 39 yeshivas being investigated by New York City officials are not meeting the minimal requirements.

Rosa told The Wall Street Journal last week that based on discussions she has had with parents, former yeshiva students and fellow regents, she is “very concerned” about the current situation. “When we talk about the expectations we have for all students to be ready, it’s all students,” she said. “Some of those schools do fall in that category of not fulfilling that obligation.”

As The Jewish Week has reported in depth in recent years, a number of boys yeshivas conduct classes in Yiddish and provide virtually no secular courses. State officials are revising the state’s educational guidelines to ensure that children in private schools receive “substantially equivalent” education to those in public schools.

Naftuli Moster, founder and executive director of the secular education advocacy group Young Advocates For a Fair Education (YAFFED), which has spear headed the effort to bring this deficiency in yeshiva education to the attention of state authorities, remains skeptical. He told us he would consider Rosa’s comments a “great accomplishment, but it comes after years and years of them [education officials] dropping the ball.”

Some defenders of the all-Torah-study yeshiva curriculum say they are cooperating with New York officials and assert that the regents may only be hearing from dissatisfied graduates and parents. But some yeshiva parents want their children to have a more well-rounded secular education to increase their marketable skills but worry about being ostracized in their community if they speak out.

In the meantime, it is important to keep the issue in the public square and make sure that state requirements apply to all children.