‘In high school, one of our boys is receiving zero secular education, and the other will experience the same once he reaches that age. By not addressing this educational neglect, New York is robbing children of the opportunity to reach their full potential in life.’

Jeanmarie Evelly

As mothers, we do everything we can to love, protect, and nurture our children so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential. But as mothers of sons attending Hasidic yeshivas, it is not always within our power to achieve those goals. 

For years, we have fought to ensure our sons receive the basic education to which they are entitled under the law. Sadly, inaction from both the city and state makes it clear that the system is rigged against parents like us, and we are running out of options for our children and their futures. 

A 2019 New York City Department of Education (DOE) inquiry affirmed what we already knew from our own experiences: many yeshiva students are not learning English, math, history, science, or other secular subjects. Twenty-six out of the 28 schools in the investigation failed to meet the minimum standards for secular education. This means boys like ours never have the opportunity to learn about basic scientific principles, the civil rights movement, or even how to write an essay.

Due to family court orders, we have been stripped of educational decision-making rights. Therefore, we cannot simply choose to remove our sons from yeshivas that deny them an education. Between the two of us, we have tried every tool at our disposal to secure at least a basic secular education for our kids—including working directly with their yeshivas to try to get them to change, filing a complaint alongside dozens of other yeshiva parents with the City’s Department of Education (DOE), writing letters, meeting with officials, speaking at Panel for Educational Policy meetings and press conferences, and filing lawsuits. 

Despite clear evidence, DOE officials have taken no actions to rectify the situation in these schools. Our remaining hope is that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) will do the right thing and enforce educational standards for all New York schools.

This is not just about our sons. There are over 65,000 ultra-Orthodox children in New York whose lives are impacted by a lack of secular education. 

Since 2019, NYSED had been considering proposed regulations that would have helped to enforce basic educational standards in nonpublic schools—yet they were recently scrapped. NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa is quick to fulfill her duty on other issues of educational equity, but leaders like her fold to political pressures from the ultra-Orthodox community and other private school special interests, so this issue is subject to delays and stagnation. New proposals could come later this year, but there is no concrete timeline. 

Every day, month, and year of inaction matters. In high school, one of our boys is receiving zero secular education, and the other will experience the same once he reaches that age. By not addressing this educational neglect, New York is robbing children of the opportunity to reach their full potential in life. 

NYSED must ensure this is the final delay in enforcement, and use its existing authority to respond to complaints like ours and ensure that ultra-Orthodox children are getting the education to which they are entitled under state law. Even while developing new regulations, they have the power to act now. Commissioner Rosa must do the right thing—we cannot bear watching our children’s futures being destroyed. Every child has a right to learn, and to do nothing about educational neglect is unconscionable. 

Beatrice Weber and Sheindy Weichman are mothers who advocate for improved secular education in Hasidic yeshivas

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Our Sons are Among NY’s 65K Ultra-Orthodox Children Lacking Secular Education

  1. I notice the outrage for “our boy’s “, but what about these unskilled women, as the rest of us, need to work outside the home to be able to support a family? Being at home is a lifestyle choice, no a religious doctrine.

    • I’m general the girls are given better secular education. It’s still far from adequate but that’s why the focus is on the boys who may get an hour a day taught by a Hasidic rabbi who has not got the qualifications to be teaching.

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