The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute
and the Hunter College Jewish Studies Center
invite you to a newsworthy discussion on the timely topic of secular education standards
in New York State’s Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas

A New Public Program Live and Online

Please join us as Roosevelt House and Hunter’s Jewish Studies Center co-host an urgently important panel discussion exploring the recent, exhaustive, and explosive New York Times investigative report on the steep decline of secular education in the state’s Hasidic Yeshivas. The widely discussed news story described the alarming and growing lack of proficiency among Hasidic yeshiva students in math, science, and English, often resulting in later joblessness and poverty among graduates. In addition, the New York State Board of Regents recently unanimously voted on new guidelines that would enforce educational standards in all religious schools that receive public financial support.

The Times story reported educational neglect and physical abuse at Hasidic schools, an educational system that receives hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding but has apparently failed to recognize, much less meet, minimum secular education standards required of schools that accept public support.

Did the Times get the entire story? How have the yeshivas reacted? Can the State enforce legal requirements for secular education in core subjects at religious schools? What role do electoral politics play in sustaining the current hands-off approach? What is New York City’s obligation? How can New York best guarantee the proficiency of students in both public and religious schools? A panel of experts and eyewitnesses will discuss the issue—relate their personal experiences in Hasidic Yeshivas—and explore possible solutions:

Naftuli Moster (MSW ’15), who was featured in the Times report, is founder and former executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED), a non-profit advocacy group working to improve secular education in ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivas in New York and abroad. Raised in a large Hasidic family of 17 in Borough Park, he attended Hasidic yeshivas his entire life but left the community when he realized he had an inadequate secular education. Moster went on to earn a CUNY BA and then an MSW from Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work. He organized a previous Roosevelt House panel on this subject.

Schneur Zalman Newfield grew up in Crown Heights and, through age 21, studied at Lubavitch yeshivas where he was taught no secular subjects. In the next decade-and-a-half he earned a GED, a BA in psychology from Brooklyn College, and a PhD in sociology from NYU. He is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College and the author of the widely praised 2020 book Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press). Newfield is also a host on the “New Books Network” podcast.

Beatrice Weber, a motivational speaker, author, and activist, is the current executive director of YAFFED. Raised in a Hassidic community, she was married off to a rabbi in an arranged marriage before graduating high school. Despite opposition from her community and her own family, the Orthodox “Rebbetzin” left her marriage several years ago and now lives with the two youngest of her 10 children. Weber, who now holds an MBA, filed a 2019 lawsuit against her young son’s Yeshiva and the NYC Department of Education, arguing that he was not being given adequate schooling.

Leah Garrett, moderator, is inaugural director of Hunter’s Jewish Studies Center and director of the college’s Hebrew and Jewish Studies program. Professor Garrett has written four noted books on Jewish history, the latest of which is X-Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II. Her previous work, Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel, won the 2017 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for modern Jewish history and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She has organized and hosted a number of Roosevelt House programs.



The State of Hasidic Education: The Right to Learn, The Obligation to Teach | Posted on October 12th, 2022 | Public Programs