Brooklyn’s haredi schools ‘underperforming’ in NY

An NY-based website finds haredi students in the state can't speak English because they are taught only Yiddish.

January 24, 2013 22:23
1 minute read.
Ultra-orthodox yeshiva students [illustrative]

Haredi ultra-orthodox yeshiva students 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


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NEW YORK – Brooklyn’s haredi community is vastly underperforming the educational standards set by New York State and federal law for its 84,000 students, according to an investigative report conducted by the local news site.

This would make it one of the largest parochial communities in the United States with inadequate instruction from its teachers and lackluster oversight from its local governing authorities.

The New York-based website spoke to over 30 students, parents, teachers and government officials on the record for the three-part series published this week.

New York State law since the 1980s requires that core subjects – from American history to math, writing and English comprehension – be taught to all students between ages 6 and 16 to the standards of the state’s authorities in order “to see that children are not left in ignorance,” according to the state.

But Sonja Sharp, a producer and reporter for DNAinfo, found that male students were learning almost exclusively in Yiddish and couldn’t communicate in English or understand basic math by the time they turned 18.

“In many cases, you’re talking about students who are 18 and lack the ability to communicate in English,” said Sharp.

“They can’t text, they can’t read a food menu, and they can’t apply for jobs. So they say they have no choices – that the options don’t exist. And because they can’t get a job, they can’t support their families.”

A widely read demographic report on New York’s Jewish population released by UJA-Federation of New York last year noted an increase in the rate of poverty among ultra- Orthodox communities across the state, correlating to this educational trend. The number of haredim in parochial schools has increased 12 percent since 2008.

Girls in the community are more likely to learn these skills, as they aren’t obligated to devote their time to Talmud study. But the report charges that these women rarely get the chance to execute these skills, as tradition often keeps them out of the workforce.

Sharp noted that there are some schools that prove the exception to this rule. But she heard the same story “over and over again,” she said.

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