Op-Ed: Response To The NY Times Article “In Hassidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money”

by Ben Samuels

I have read the article in the NYT from 9-11 “In Hasidic enclaves , Failing Private schools Flush with Public Money”.

Ostensibly, this article was written as an investigative piece into Hasidic schools lack of teaching secular subjects. If this article would reflect the results of an in- depth investigation, that would be one story.

Unfortunately, the agenda of this article becomes clearer as many more accusations against Hasidim, unrelated to their lack of teaching secular subjects become apparent. I cannot comment about the particular issue of secular subjects, as I have no more information than what was brought in the article. Reading the article it becomes apparent that this is besides the point.

What I can comment on, is the apparent misconstruing and twisting of facts in order to come out with the desired results, despising the Hasidim, which is clearly the authors’ intention.

Let me begin by pointing out the most obvious glaring hateful propaganda espoused in the article. The article accuses “some leave the community and end up addicted to drugs or alcohol”.

Really?! If there is anything one could accuse the Yeshivas, it’s definitely not for drugs or alcohol addiction.

That is the height of ‘Chutzpah’ to accuse the Hasidim’s educational system of producing children abusing alcohol and drugs.

A nationwide statistic shows that 83% of teenagers in the US report to have used marijuana in the past month!! According to the data, by the time they’re in 12th grade, 46.6% of teens have tried illicit drugs. In the Yeshivahs 2% of teens using illicit drugs would be an exaggeration.

With such a lopsided statistic, highlighting the incredible benefits of Yeshiva education over General Schools, how in the world was the NYT able to use this as an accusation against the Yeshivas? Is there no agenda here?

The article brings several students that ended up homeless when they left the community to anecdotally prove the system is a failure. Is this called journalism?

Every system has some failures. Every system has disgruntled students or disgruntled employees for that matter. Would quoting some disgruntled, failing students even from top schools (and there are several to be sure), be indicative of systemic failure? This is called journalism?

Not one success story or anecdote of graduates from Yeshivas are brought. None! At least 10 major success stories immediately come to mind, yet a major investigation by the NYT of several years, could not yield one!

B & H Photo in NYC is owned by Satmar Hasids. These Hasids have gone through the same Yeshiva system this article so despises. These graduates that will “never be productive”, have managed to build an incredibly successful business. They are the number one merchants in digital cameras in the nation! They are productive, tax paying citizens that give back to NYS Thousands of times more than the $2,000 they got from government funding they received at Yeshiva. They are employing thousands of New Yorker’s and paying millions of dollars in taxes. They have an annual revenue of $460 Million. Not bad for Yeshivas that produce ‘failures’.

With a simple google search one can come to the Buzzfeed article that says “15% of third party sellers on Amazon are Orthodox Jews”. The article says ‘Orthodox’ but clearly means Hasidim as you can see from the picture and content of the article. Let’s think for a moment, the enormity of that statement. The E-commerce giant had 100 Billion dollars in sales from 3rd party Vendors. 15% is Orthodox Jews. Even if we say it is off by a few Billion, that is still Very impressive coming from the same Hassidim that are being smeared as having a failed education and will never be able to contribute to society. Here is the link to the Buzzfeed Article. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/leticiamiranda/amazon-orthodox-jews

The respected Journalists, authors of this article, must surely know about the countless successful builders and investors in the real estate industry comprised of the Satmar Hasidim. These businesses employ thousands of New Yorkers and pay millions in taxes. They are too numerous to mention by name. Anyone living in NYS and is in the real estate industry are well aware of them. All are products of the “failed Yeshiva system”. Every penny of public funds that was poured into the Yeshivas that produced these businessmen, has been paid back to the public of NYS tenfold. If only this ‘failed system’ can be replicated all over the country we would be a more prosperous nation.

Perhaps the system did not produce that many professionals, such as Doctors and Lawyers per thousand students, but any honest person living in NYS involved in business of any kind, would surely testify that the Hasidim are prominently represented. To ignore all this, speaks volumes of the authors’ agenda.

In a totally unrelated topic to secular studies in school, the NYT article begins to level accusations of abuse in the Yeshivas. Please note this so called abuse could have happened even if there would be secular studies taught. What relevance does it have to an ‘expose’’ on the Yeshivas that don’t teach English? Perhaps if the agenda is Yeshiva bashing, then why not continue with unfounded accusations of abuse. The article accuses as fact “Many Hasidic boys study religious texts from dawn until nightfall and are expected to maintain total focus throughout their study session. If their minds wander or they stop following along with a teacher, they often face corporal punishment”. The Times brings 35 people that have noticed corporal punishment in the last decade. For an accusation that “They OFTEN face corporal punishment”, to bring only 35 people out of 100,000 students that witnessed corporal punishment in the last decade is a sad day for journalism!! Perhaps these 35 people were witness to the same one or 2 teachers that are bad apples in the school system. There is no context in showing if this is a systemic Yeshiva wide issue. Which Yeshivas? One, two? All? This is a serious accusations and yet no backing and context to this.

They say “A picture is worth a thousand words”

In the over 20 pictures selected for the article, not one has a child smiling. Of the 100,000 kids going to school everyday laughing and enjoying their day in school, could the Times not have found one such picture ? Instead the NYT placed pictures where each one shows students that look abused and on the verge of tears. Is there no agenda?

When the article finds that the Lubavitch Hassidim do use English, there is an immediate disclaimer that “They do so only because of ‘proselytizing’” (Sic). How do the authors know this? They bring NO backup to this claim. To be sure the Lubavitch Hasidim do reach out to unaffiliated Jews. To say that their educational system incorporates English ‘in order to proselytize’ is beyond ridiculous and borders on fantasy.

The article states “Over the past 5 years, the New York City Police Department investigated more then a dozen claims of child abuse at the schools, records show. It is not clear whether anyone was charged in the incidents.”

Let’s do the math. In 5 years a little over a dozen claims from approximately 100,000 students. That’s amazing for any school system. Of course any claim is too much, but compared to other statistics it’s amazing. That would amount to 2 students per 100,000 students of “claims”. Not actual abuse. It seems pretty obvious these cases did not end up with charges. The article writes “it’s not clear if charges were brought”. How can that be true? There are records in every modern police department. If there were charges brought wouldn’t it be on the record? Obviously it doesn’t fit the narrative of this article so it’s easier to leave the readers with a smear in their mind that perhaps they were charged, when they obviously were not.

Why does the article not bring the fact that according to government data, “During the 2019–20 school year, 77 percent of public schools recorded that one or more incidents of crime had taken place, amounting to 1.4 million incidents. This translates to a rate of 29 incidents per 1,000 students enrolled in 2019–20.” Yet contrast that to the Yeshivas, there have been NO incidents reported of violence!!! How does that compared to 77% of public schools, from the Governments published data?? Is that not worth mentioning in an article that talks about the “failed education”. If only the 77% reporting crime would fail like the Yeshiva system , we would be a lot safer an successful as a nation!

We do know as matter of fact, from available data, corporal punishment is currently legal in 19 states, and over 160,000 children in these states are officially subject to corporal punishment in schools each year. All receive public funding.

Even if the article wishes to level the false accusation against Yeshivas of administering corporal punishment, would it not be fair to bring the above statistic from other states to put the Yeshiva in context? Or perhaps it fits the narrative better to paint them as isolated wicked people?

In summation, this article is clearly misconstrued with half truths, misrepresentations, and unfounded accusations, to paint a picture of old anti Semitic tropes that public funds are taken, but nothing productive is given back. The poor tax payer received nothing in return for paying ‘for these parasites’.

This narrative is totally false as we have demonstrated earlier.

We have mentioned only a few examples how the Yeshiva graduates have mostly become productive, successful businessman paying more than their fair share of taxes, many times more then they received, thus making a well worth investment of the government.

Let’s examine for a moment how much the state is paying for the average Yeshiva student. According to the article it’s 1 Billion dollars in 4 years for 50,000 boys and approximately the same amount of girls. That would be 250 Million Dollars a year for 100,000 students. That would amount to $2,500 per student which includes lunch and busing. The latest data shows that “Overall, total spending per-pupil averages about $28,000 in NYC”. This is data from government sources. Doesn’t that put it a little better in perspective? Even based on the numbers the article came up with, the conclusion would be, the Yeshivas receive 10 times less public funding than do the public school pupil! Yet from the article you would think they are receiving equal or close amounts. There was never such a statement in the article because it would distract from the narrative.

Oh and one more point. Let’s not forget the parents of the yeshiva children are paying taxes in NYS. Part of their taxes include School taxes. This money goes for the public school children which their kids DON’T attend. Essentially, they are paying for someone else’s kids that are benefiting off their hard -earned tax money. Put in perspective, it’s not public funds. It’s the parents’ hard earned money. A fraction of the taxes that these hard- working Yeshiva parents are paying for public school students, are going back to their own children. Not to forget that 9 times more of what they receive, they are giving in taxes for OTHER New Yorkers to benefit.

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