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NY area Hasidics and the local school system


TouchMeFall21

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Interesting article in this week's New York Magazine (not breaking the link of a major publication):

http://nymag.com/news/features/east-ram ... im-2013-4/

Basically, the Hasidic community in NY's Rockland County have positioned themselves as the majority on local school boards, and have been systematically gutting the public school systems. Because of their demographic advantage (read: they're fruitful, they multiply), they're well positioned to take virtually complete control over local politics, and work it to their advantage. Because they have no vested interest in public education, and they're obviously very insular, they're not acting in the interest of the students in the system and their families.

Not mentioned in the article, but similar situations have been playing out over the years in communities like the five towns in Long Island and in Lakewood NJ. What I find so remarkable about Lakewood in particular (admittedly the community I am mist familiar with; I grew up in the area) is the effect the Hasidic influx has had on secular Jewish institutions; in the past ten or so years, major Conservative and Reform synagogues and day schools in the town have shuttered.

A scary look at how playing with demographics (i.e. "building armies for G-d") can play out after a few generations. And the Hasidic community doesn't even prostelityze; these are all born-and bred community members. Really troubling implications...

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I live on Long Island, albeit a different school district than Lawrence (Five Towns). I'm deeply disturbed by the trend. Public school students should not be subjected to austerity because of religious fundamentalism of members of the community.

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This is terrifying. The violence, the total destruction of the public school system- they're actually making progress toward fundie dominionism. I really hope the Christian fundies don't get this powerful, Lord only knows how bad that could become.

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This is terrifying. The violence, the total destruction of the public school system- they're actually making progress toward fundie dominionism. I really hope the Christian fundies don't get this powerful, Lord only knows how bad that could become.

It's slightly different from Christian Dominionism, in that these particular groups are not evangelical and are extremely insular. They aren't looking to control social policy in the larger society.

Instead, voting power is used to focus exclusively on the needs of the groups. The groups talk about modern day shtetls (Jewish villages in Eastern Europe), but there is a major difference: in Europe, the Jews of the shtetls had to rely almost exclusively on their own communities, because the government was hostile and provided no benefits. Since the families are large and often poor, they need Medicaid and WIC and food stamps, and aren't about to vote for budget-cutting Republicans. They feel that they pay taxes that support public schools while getting no benefit since their children do not attend, so they want those taxes to be as low as possible.

In short, unlike Dominionists, the problem here is a group that doesn't have any interest in the larger society around it.

The demographic issues, however, are quite real. It's part of the reason that I never really understood why so many on this board dismiss Dominionism. One of the most paradoxical effects of the Pill has been to increase the demographic power of those that oppose it the most. In 1960, most of the Jewish community thought that the Hassidic Jews were an old-fashioned remnant that was on the verge of disappearing altogether, since so many had been killed and since they didn't seem to fit into North American society. What happened instead was that reproduction rates went down among liberal Jews with the Pill and the women's movement and greater assimilation, and it went up among the most conservative groups which rejected birth control and finally had a setting where they had enough to eat and weren't being killed. An increase in social programs and a growing acceptance of multiculturalism meant that there wasn't the same pressure to assimilate that earlier generations of Jews had faced.

In short, the influence of ultra-Orthodox Judaism has increased within the Jewish world for reasons completely unrelated to the merits of that ideology. Think about the implications of that for a moment.

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Shouldn't there be some sort of law that to be on the school board you must have children in public school? Or, alternatively, that a certain percentage of school board members must have kids in public school. This type of thing is a real argument against the, in my opinion crazy, system of local school boards in this country. This is how we end up with creationism in certain schools in Kansas and the like.

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I had no idea until reading about this story elsewhere that NY state seems to provide by law equivalent services like school buses and textbook funds to private schools. Why? I don't believe this to be the case in Massachusetts - does anyone know why it's the norm in NYS (or am I simply oblivious to this arrangement in other states)?

Also, this case is shady as hell from what I can tell. Figures I've seen quote that NYS is forking over something like $74,000 a student to send them to "special ed" school in Kiryat Joel because supposedly no equivalent exists in the public school system to meet their needs. Of course.

There's also apparently a huge number of "special needs" students who "must" attend school in KJ at cost to the state since they can't apparently be accommodated by the local public schools. Bullshit. Kids who need services are fully entitled to them, and I do not begrudge them the expense it costs to educate them at all, but if you're seriously going to look me in the eye and tell me that in all honesty, this area has a disproportionate number of Orthodox Jewish students with special needs who just cannot be educated or accommodated in the public school system and thus must have their places in private yeshiva paid for by the state, well, I have a bridge to sell you...

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I lived near KJ for many years and I can tell you that while the people might be cash poor in their bank accounts their clothing presents a different story. The women make all their own clothes but out of very expensive fabric. They get Medicaid and WIC because they are cash poor but the whole village of KJ is owned not by the families but by the sect who "rent" them the houses. They work in highly profitable careers in NYC but are paid little so they can be cash poor and drive crappy cars but have buses that transport the men to NYC. The woman have nice jewelry "gifts" so it cannot be used against them in the Welfare Office. Many do not carry car insurance and boy do they look down on anyone who is not "one of them" . They can make a case of prejudice against their yarmikas but if you have ever been around them for long you realize how deeply prejudicial they are. I was a little fascinated about them when I first learned of Hasids but after living near them I have no desire to even be near them. They teach their kids to be just as prejudiced as themselves, my kids would try to play in the same sandbox with them and their mothers would call them away. I have been slammed into by their strollers, shopping carts with not one apology. I have no respect for their religious beliefs because they have no respect for others at all.

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I had no idea until reading about this story elsewhere that NY state seems to provide by law equivalent services like school buses and textbook funds to private schools. Why? I don't believe this to be the case in Massachusetts - does anyone know why it's the norm in NYS (or am I simply oblivious to this arrangement in other states)?

For special education? Sure - but you have to successfully argue that the pubic option is inadequate for your kids first, which usually isn't that easy. Other states have that as well, because special needs are just that - special! Sometimes there really isn't a good public option for your disabled child that you can get to. I'm ńot seeing anything in the article to suggest that this happens more typically, though.

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Shouldn't there be some sort of law that to be on the school board you must have children in public school? Or, alternatively, that a certain percentage of school board members must have kids in public school. This type of thing is a real argument against the, in my opinion crazy, system of local school boards in this country. This is how we end up with creationism in certain schools in Kansas and the like.

Maybe the entire idea of school boards needs to go?

It's just not workable in this situation. If you exclude folks without kids in public schools, then you are taxing whole communities that are excluded from representation.

You get similar issues, on a less extreme scale, in places like Florida where retirees don't have any vested interest in funding public schools with their tax dollars. Same thing in any area where wealthier residents don't have kids in public school.

The only way to have decent quality across the board is to fund schools at the state or even federal level, and then allow school choice within the public system. [school choice is a key part to this. In Ontario, funding now comes just from the province instead of from local taxes, but schools can refuse to accept students who are not in the school zone. This has created a two-tier system, where wealthy parents pay top dollar for homes in the best school zones, and can then ignore the worst schools which can be downright dangerous. Have kids from Lawrence Height attend school with kids from Avenue and Lawrence, and see how fast things will change.]

I also have a radical notion that we can structure public schools to integrate students from faith-based systems. The most hard-core groups may reject this, since they wouldn't have control over the public school portion, but if it worked it could lead to better integration, a general studies curriculum that actually teaches what it should, less financial hardship and a sense that everyone is truly served by the public system and has a stake in it. It would also ensure that all students get the special needs programs that they require. When funding goes through the school system, it means that kids in private religious schools miss out on basic services.

http://jrkmommy-personalandpolitical.bl ... faith.html

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For special education? Sure - but you have to successfully argue that the pubic option is inadequate for your kids first, which usually isn't that easy. Other states have that as well, because special needs are just that - special! Sometimes there really isn't a good public option for your disabled child that you can get to. I'm ńot seeing anything in the article to suggest that this happens more typically, though.

I'm aware of the option for special ed students, but from what I'm reading elsewhere, NYS is obligated to provide equivalent services for ALL students even if they're private. Maybe I misunderstood the posts I read on the subject, though.

As to the cash-poor yet seemingly well-off dynamic that seems to be going on in KJ, if the ladies of Imamother are to be believed, a great number of those families are gaming the system to take advantage of benefits they aren't technically entitled to - section 8, Medicaid, foodstamps, etc. Apparently the easiest way to do this is to not get married civilly, so you are down as a technical single parent with multiple kids. I have never been anywhere near KJ, but the multitude of times this has been brought up there by ex-hardcore Satmar ladies is enough to make me lend credibility to the allegation.

ETA: I mean it has been brought up elsewhere (NYT, Daily Beast, etc) but I'm more inclined to trust the snippets and allusions I get from those who live around and know of it first-hand.

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The situation in Rockland county is worse than is being reported. There are deep racial tensions between the Hasidic community who run the school boards, and the African american and Latino communities, most of whom do send their kids to the public schools. Several districts have gutted programs so badly and laid off so many teachers that students are in danger of not being able to meet NYS graduation requirements.

Regarding public school district obligations to in district students who attend private schools: Yes, under NYS law public school districts are obligated to provide transportation (within a 15 mile limit) and textbooks for in district children who attend private schools. Generally, a district pays a per pupil amount to the private school for books, and just runs the busing themselves. The history behind this has more to do with catholic parochial schools and the large catholic population in NY than the ultra-orthodox community. Back in the good old days when there was still public school prayer and it was protestant, the compromise was keep protestant prayer and give the Catholics busing and books. 45 years later, times change but the law about buses and books still exists.

About the special ed stuff: NY's special education requirements for schools are much stricter than the rules set by the federal government, so the religious piece makes sense in the context of NYS law and the least restrictive environment criteria. If a child with special needs from Brooklin would other wise be educated in an ultra-orthodox private school, but none exists that offer an autism program, and the closest such public program is 100 miles away at Kiryas Joel, then that is where the student's home district would probably be required to send that ultra-orthodox student. There is a long and tortured history of NYS case law that supports this, again many of the lawsuits historically brought by parents who are not ultra orthodox. It is asituation that does not exist in many places outside New York state.

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I lived near KJ for many years and I can tell you that while the people might be cash poor in their bank accounts their clothing presents a different story. The women make all their own clothes but out of very expensive fabric. They get Medicaid and WIC because they are cash poor but the whole village of KJ is owned not by the families but by the sect who "rent" them the houses. They work in highly profitable careers in NYC but are paid little so they can be cash poor and drive crappy cars but have buses that transport the men to NYC. The woman have nice jewelry "gifts" so it cannot be used against them in the Welfare Office. Many do not carry car insurance and boy do they look down on anyone who is not "one of them" . They can make a case of prejudice against their yarmikas but if you have ever been around them for long you realize how deeply prejudicial they are. I was a little fascinated about them when I first learned of Hasids but after living near them I have no desire to even be near them. They teach their kids to be just as prejudiced as themselves, my kids would try to play in the same sandbox with them and their mothers would call them away. I have been slammed into by their strollers, shopping carts with not one apology. I have no respect for their religious beliefs because they have no respect for others at all.

Growing up as a secular Jew near a similarly insular Hasidic community, this is something I've really struggled with. The sentiments you describe pretty accurately reflect how people from my hometown feel about the Hasids--who are indeed not good neighbors. That said, I always saw it as a slippery slope--where does an offhand comment about the community become tacit anti-semetism (not suggesting you're anti-semetic, of course--just sharing my own personal experience!)? I spent enough energy on the high school bus refuting the idea that all Jews have sex through sheets to know it's a fine line...

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This is terrifying. The violence, the total destruction of the public school system- they're actually making progress toward fundie dominionism. I really hope the Christian fundies don't get this powerful, Lord only knows how bad that could become.

What on earth makes you think Christian fundies aren't already this powerful? Abstinence-only programs (or no federal funds), Good News Clubs in schools, biased textbooks used all over the country, biology classes in which creationism is presented on equal footing with evolution - what more evidence are you looking for?!

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I grew up and lived for a time as an adult in Bergen County, which is in NJ just south of Rockland. I worked for an employer part-time who lived in Rockland (orthodox, not Hassidim) and spent some time up there. Not to be a bigot, because I don't hate Jews in general and have plenty of Jewish friends, but the Hassid community has not exactly enhanced the area up there. One thing that stuck with me was that the localities had to gut their seatbelt laws, because these families would cart their huge families around in ancient beaters that barely even HAD seatbelts, far less enough for all the people in the car.

I'm with HOTW...If I were a non-Hassid living up there, I'd leave. They're just not very nice, and have no interest in interacting in any meaningful way with the rest of the community, such as is left. It's sad, because I remember Rockland 30 years ago and it was perfectly fine.

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The situation in Rockland county is worse than is being reported. There are deep racial tensions between the Hasidic community who run the school boards, and the African american and Latino communities, most of whom do send their kids to the public schools. Several districts have gutted programs so badly and laid off so many teachers that students are in danger of not being able to meet NYS graduation requirements.

Regarding public school district obligations to in district students who attend private schools: Yes, under NYS law public school districts are obligated to provide transportation (within a 15 mile limit) and textbooks for in district children who attend private schools. Generally, a district pays a per pupil amount to the private school for books, and just runs the busing themselves. The history behind this has more to do with catholic parochial schools and the large catholic population in NY than the ultra-orthodox community. Back in the good old days when there was still public school prayer and it was protestant, the compromise was keep protestant prayer and give the Catholics busing and books. 45 years later, times change but the law about buses and books still exists.

About the special ed stuff: NY's special education requirements for schools are much stricter than the rules set by the federal government, so the religious piece makes sense in the context of NYS law and the least restrictive environment criteria. If a child with special needs from Brooklin would other wise be educated in an ultra-orthodox private school, but none exists that offer an autism program, and the closest such public program is 100 miles away at Kiryas Joel, then that is where the student's home district would probably be required to send that ultra-orthodox student. There is a long and tortured history of NYS case law that supports this, again many of the lawsuits historically brought by parents who are not ultra orthodox. It is asituation that does not exist in many places outside New York state.

I work as an advocate for children with special needs, and this comes up more often than not with Orthodox clients. A mother recently called me in a rage because Early Intervention had the gall to send a Catholic speech therapist and a Reform Jewish occupational therapist to her home. She refused to allow them to work with her son and wanted me to call Early Intervention and arrange for an entirely Orthodox Jewish team of professionals. I didn't take the case.

If a family wants a child educated in a religious way, then the family needs to foot the bill. What gets me is that as a NYer my tax dollars go towards sending children to religious schools.

What's happening in East Ramapo is awful. The ethnic/racial tensions just heighten the situation. It's such a massive abuse of power.

As far as the districts on LI go, those districts have been predominantly Jewish for years. However, they were made up of Reform and Conservative Jews who utilized the public schools. There's serious tension between the Reform/Conservative communities and the Orthodox and Hasidic communities.

I've actually found that Orthodox and Hasidic Jews tend to be more hostile to Conservative and Reform Jews than to Christians, Muslims, etc. My dad is a doctor and sees a lot of Orthodox patients. When they started seeing him they asked what religion he practiced. My dad told them he was Lutheran, and they were visibly relieved. They informed him that it was better to see a Lutheran doctor than a Reform or Conservative Jewish doctor because as Lutherans we don't "know any better" but Reform and Conservative Jews "know better" and choose to follow the wrong path.

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We had a good case for asking the public school to pay for our son's private special needs school, and it still didn't happen. It is really hard to accomplish, although some people clearly do.

One point of confusion though...don't really want to name my state, but here, the school districts will NOT and cannot pay for religious schools. So while there are great religious schools for special needs kids, the state cannot pay for those. They can only be made to pay for secular special needs schools.

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I don't object to special needs students being sent to private schools/out of district placements if the home district cannot meet the students' needs. Like you mentioned, I just object to the state shelling out money for placements in religious schools.

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That is just appalling! I haven't even finished the article yet, and it is sickening, what they are doing to those poor students.

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I agree it's a mess. BTW, I was not endorsing the NY laws, just explaining and giving the history behind them. The money to private religious schools has been found to be constitutional under NY law, so I don't see that changing anytime soon.

ETA: the NY textbook case, if anyone wants to know the reasoning

http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal ... /case.html

Thanks. I didn't think you were endorsing our (ridiculous) laws, just adding to the discussion. :)

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What the above poster said about Orthodox Jews is VERY true!! I'm Jewish (not religious) & Orthodox Jews think that if u r Consertive or Reformed u r not a true Jewish person.

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What the above poster said about Orthodox Jews is VERY true!! I'm Jewish (not religious) & Orthodox Jews think that if u r Consertive or Reformed u r not a true Jewish person.

I long ago made peace with the idea that Orthodox Jews would consider me, a Reform convert, to be lower than low and not really Jewish at all - seriously misguided and mislead. The language used to describe Reform Jews on imanutter is worse than the language used to describe Arabs, most of the time. Ah well, I don't need them, and they don't need me.

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I live on Long Island. Not only do they take over the school boards in the area, they always vote no for anything. School budgets, any proposed changes (like voting against a medical center), and so on. It's very annoying. They all send their kids to private schools, so why can't they leave the public ones alone?

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So I'm very ignorant about Hasidic Jews, and this thread has me fascinated. I'm reading what I can find online, but I have a question. Do they have converts? Or is this a group you have to be born into?

I read about one woman who has left and has written a book. She mentions that after she married, she was required to shave her head. She hated it though and only did it for the first year. Why do they shave their heads??

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Hasids do not seek converts from non Jews, though one particular group, the Lubavitcher Hasids, does a lot of outreach to less observant or secular Jews to attempt to bring them into a more observant lifestyle.

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