Bureaucrats in Albany are undermining the very education we want for our children.
Published in The Wall Street Journal by Sheva Tauby on September 15, 2022.
The multi-year campaign to undermine Hasidic education in New York state continued its forward march this week. On Tuesday, two days after the New York Times published a lengthy “investigation” into the state’s yeshivas, the Board of Regents unanimously approved a new raft of curriculum mandates. The motivation, the board claims, is to protect children who are “not receiving a quality education.”
Absent from these deliberations, however, has been an important voice—parents with children in yeshiva.
I’m part of the silent but vast majority of parents who are happy with the education my children receive at their Hasidic school. Along with tens of thousands of Jewish New Yorkers, my husband and I chose to send our children to yeshiva not only to learn how to think critically but how to live as upright, productive members of society. The goal we have for our children’s education—to help them grow into healthy, virtuous, well-rounded people—is one every parent shares. Making it a reality is exactly what our polarized society needs today.
Yet for nearly a decade, there has been a crusade against yeshivas in New York. Activists, politicians and journalists have assailed the yeshivas as unable to provide our children with the knowledge they need to survive. Ignoring or mischaracterizing the structured educational model our yeshivas employ, they point to cherry-picked testing data designed for a whole other system of education to claim that our children are deprived of knowledge that productive members of society need to be successful. Claiming we’re relegating our children to lives of penury and misery, they are using this falsehood as a weapon to regulate how our children are educated.
The truth is that each morning, my sons leave for yeshiva and return happy to share the lessons of their diligent study. In the context of our faith tradition, they learn to read, write and analyze complex information and ideas. These skills will prepare them for whatever their future may hold. Their curriculum is highly structured, and their development is closely monitored.
My husband and I chose our sons’ yeshiva precisely for what we see in them today. Both of them exude the inner peace, self-confidence and sense of purpose that all parents wish for their children. Our yeshiva instilled this disposition in my boys and in students of other yeshivas across New York who have gone on to make major academic, philanthropic and religious contributions around the world.
When I look at my Hasidic community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, I see happy, intact multigenerational families. I also see low crime and incarceration rates and community social services that offer everything from meal trains for postpartum mothers to job-placement assistance for young men looking for work. I see what all New York parents would desire for their families—and what all children deserve.
We aren’t immune to the perils that threaten every community, but our schools and the Torah code we live by guide us in building the foundation for healthy lifestyles. Take one recent example. When it became apparent that smartphones and social media were harming our children, groups of mothers in coordination with their yeshivas created a pledge system to limit their children’s exposure to those devices. While the rest of our nation struggles to find answers to the mental-health problems brought on by extensive social-media use—especially among children—we’re addressing it head-on.
Why, then, are some people so intent on interfering with the private religious yeshiva education that is working so well for my children and so many others? The effort is made worse by the fact that government intrusion into our religious education is a clear violation of our right to free exercise, enshrined in the Constitution. Children aren’t wards of the state. My husband and I have been blessed by God with them, and with the responsibility to raise them. We, and not politicians in Albany, have our children’s best interests at heart.
I know there are many other parents like my husband and me who feel blessed to send their children to yeshiva, and I’m committed to ensuring their voices are heard. I pray for a world where every child is given the opportunity to grow up in a loving family, in a safe community and with a life filled with purpose and meaning.
Ms. Tauby is a mother of eight children currently attending yeshiva schools in New York City.