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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

The Gothamist has obtained a letter written by Mayor Bill de Blasio this past May, way after an investigation was announced by the Department of Education into dozens of yeshivas that were allegedly depriving their students of a secular education, in which the Mayor gives praise to one of the very yeshivas being investigated. 

In the letter, de Blasio congratulates Crown Heights yeshiva Oholei Torah for "giving its students the tools they need to build solid foundations for their futures," despite the fact that many of the ultra-Orthodox school’s graduates have said they were left unprepared for college and a career.

No findings have been provided by the Department of Education pertaining to their investigation into the academic negligence of 39 New York yeshivas, even though the investigation began more than two years ago and has passed by several promised deadlines. 

On Wednesday, September 6, outside City Hall at a press conference, de Blasio’s support for the school was criticized by advocates for secular education. The mayor and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña were also accused of not following up on the investigation out of fear of possibly offending the voters who are part of the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox communities. 

The group that obtained the mayor’s letter, Young Adults For A Fair Education’s (Yaffed) executive director Naftuli Moster told Gothamist, "The politics behind this is obvious—the city is absolutely terrified of calling out the Hasidic yeshivas, because the findings would indicate that they're not even close to meeting state requirements [concerning education]." 

According to the group, the letter was included in a commemorative “journal” that was given to guests that attended this year’s dinner for the yeshiva’s 60th anniversary. It is to be included in a soon to be released report by Yaffed that accuses Oholei Torah of not providing a sufficient secular education to it students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

The Gothamist reports, “In July of 2015, around 50 yeshiva parents, alumni and former teachers sent a letter to the DOE expressing their concern that the Orthodox schools were almost entirely focused on intensive religious studies, to the exclusion of math, English, science and social studies. According to a report put out earlier this month by Yaffed, the lack of instruction in secular education leaves ‘young men lack[ing] the requisite skills to obtain employment with a decent income to support themselves and their (often large) families.’ The report recommends that the DOE establish a task force to improve education in the schools, and that all funding be cut to schools not meeting state benchmarks by summer 2019.

In response Yaffed's report, the pro-yeshiva group Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools [PEARLS] released a statement noting that the purpose of the ultra-Orthodox schools was for ‘children to receive a religious education that is central to their cultural identity, and that teaches young men and women to become thriving, respected members of the community.’ The group rejected Yaffed's recommendations.”

In response, Moster said, "The vast majority of Hasidic boys' high schools do not teach any secular studies, zero, not even English.”

By Hannah Hayes