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Jewish Groups Hail Supreme Court Decision on Parochial Schools

July 3, 1985
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The Supreme Court’s rulings yesterday striking down as unconstitutional programs in New York and Michigan involving the use of government funds and public school teachers to provide instruction on parochial school premises was hailed today by American Jewish organizations here.

While they indicated support for the Court’s decision — viewed widely as a reaffirmation of the Court’s support for the separation of church and state–there was widespread belief that the decisions would in no way hinder the ability of students in parochial schools, including yeshivas, to obtain proper remedial instruction.

“There’s no doubt that the curtailment of services as outlined in the Supreme Court’s decisions … will have a negative effect on Jewish day schools, ” said Dr. David Resnick, acting executive vice president of the Jewish Education Society of North America. “However, day schools in communities have found ways to receive those remedial services in a way which preserves the First Amendment distinction between church and state.”


The Court yesterday ruled as unconstitutional a program in Grand Rapids, Michigan which sends public school teachers into parochial schools during the school day to teach remedial math and reading, art, music and physical education. It also sends teachers after school to offer gymnastics, home economics, Spanish and drama.

The Court also struck down New York City’s use of federal education funds to pay public school teachers who teach in parochial schools in a program aimed at helping low income, educationally deprived children. An official of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs said yesterday the Court’s decisions would have a devastating effect on children attending Jewish religious schools.

The American Jewish Committee, which joined with the National Council of Churches and a Baptist group against the Grand Rapids program, hailed the court’s decision. But the AJCommittee did not involve itself in the New York programs, which falls under Title I of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.


According to Sam Rabinove, director of the AJCommittee, it is not the “proper business of government to subsidize schools whose chief role is to propogate their own faith. “He also indicated support for the Jewish community to aid in funding of Jewish remedial education programs.

Acting director of the American Jewish Congress’ legal division, Louis Waldman, said “we feel that once the religious community becomes dependent on public subsidies it creates problems for the state.” The AJCongress, Waldman continued, is very concerned with a strong and healthy Jewish educational system and environment, but maintains that it should be separated from that of the public school system and public funding.

Ruti Teitel, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith’s legal affairs department, said that public school teachers going into a parochial school is “not a healthy religious environment nor the proper use of public funds.” But she pointed out that the court’s rulings yesterday do not prohibit the use of public funds to be used for the purposes of remedial instruction for students who attend private and parochial schools.

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