No, The DOE Didn’t Find Most Yeshivas Denying Secular Education


If you’ve been skimming headlines the past few days, you’ve likely been led to believe that Orthodox Jewish schools were investigated by the City’s Department of Education (DOE) to findings of gross denial of secular education. 

Here’s just a quick look at some of those headlines:

“DOE probe finds only 2 of 28 yeshivas provide basic secular education” – New York Post

“Long-awaited NYC yeshiva report shows few meet state educational standards” – Daily News

“City: Only 2 of 28 yeshivas probed meet basic education standards” – Politico

“Investigators Say 26 Yeshivas Fall Below New York’s Education Standards” – Wall Street Journal

So, is it true? Are only 2 Yeshivas in the entire world providing their students with the wonders of English Language Arts and Mathematics? 

Is YAFFED (“Young Advocates for Fair Education”) – the anti-Yeshiva group which managed a stunning 20 attendees at their last press conferences yet somehow also presents itself as the voice of hundreds of thousands of parents and students – right? Did a new City government report vindicate their year-long struggle for Hasidic boys to finally become equals to children studying in the City’s most-excellent public schools?

I’ve got a radical idea as to how to get an answer to those very questions: read the report. 

I know it sounds crazy, but let’s just give it a shot. 

The report was presenting the results of an investigation based on a list compiled by YAFFED, which claimed 39 schools on it (one with two addresses) were non-compliant with state law. 

The DOE visited those locations. Here is what they found: 

Four were no longer open.

Three were not high schools but secondary religious schools for adults. 

One was a Pre-K program. 

One was registered with the state, not the city.

One was a Chabad world headquarters on Eastern Parkway and not a school.

One was a nutrition center and not a school. 

One was a butcher shop and not a school. 

First, I applaud YAFFED for sending a DOE investigator to Satmar Meat Market. Maybe Russian internet trolls assigned with wasting taxpayer money, disrupting government work and confusing the public should take a page out of their playbook.

“Let me be clear: these are not poorly performing schools. They are not schools at all,” said YAFFED founder Naftuli Moster. Apparently he meant it literally.

So that leaves us with 28 remaining schools. For those, the report found:

Two were providing substantially equivalent education, one was “on the verge” of doing so.

Eight were “well-developed in moving towards providing substantially equivalent instruction”. 

Twelve were “developing in their provision of substantially equivalent instruction”.

And finally, five were underdeveloped and not providing substantially equivalent education. 

With the exception of those five, all schools either provided or were in the process of integrating English language arts and mathematics. They were all either substantial equivalent or on the path of doing so. 

This is not to forget that there are multiple sects of Judaism (sorry, but not everyone wearing a skullcap is “Hasidic”) and literally hundreds upon hundreds of Yeshivas in the New York Metro region, many from communities which are polar opposition of each other. There is no one ‘Yeshiva Corporation’ which all other Yeshivas are franchises of. 

That out of 28 hand-picked by an anti-Yeshiva group, many of which were from the most-secluded Jewish sects, only five were not following or working on following a vague State education law is arguably excellent news for Yeshivas.

The only problem: the news doesn’t always bring you the news. 

Yes, of course, one can write a headline saying “Only Two  Yeshivas Followed State Law, According To City Report”. But that’s completely ignoring that: 

  1. The same report found that 23 other Yeshivas were either in the process or very close to being in compliance.
  2. The entire “investigation” was sparked by a list provided by an anti-Yeshiva organization, a list which included a butcher shop, kindergarten and nutrition center.

Here’s a proposal to the DOE and the press: treat YAFFED with the same seriousness it treats you. 

Writing titles that convey nothing but “Yeshivas = bad” without context isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. 

If I’m a fringe interest group looking at this situation, why wouldn’t I want to push random government investigations? Even if the findings don’t confirm what I claim, they will likely be spinned by a media hungry for spectacular headlines and understaffed to look deeper into their essence. As a result, public opinion will have drastically turned into my favor.

It’s up to journalists not to let it happen.

In the meantime, I urge everyone to read the actual, raw 15-page report for themselves. It can be found here.