The Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud HaRabbonim), representing over 950 American rabbis, expressed shock and outrage over the new educational guidelines issued by the New York State Education Department.
Recently, New York State released new guidelines about nonpublic schools – including day schools, yeshivos, and Bais Yaakov schools, which currently educate over 100,000 students – redefining the requirement to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of the public schools. Going forward, Jewish schools must meet onerous government standards about what they teach and for how long they teach it, subject to watchful government inspection.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America asserts that these newly promulgated guidelines represent an unacceptable governmental encroachment on and intrusion in the autonomy of our religious schools. Each school’s board and educational committee should be entrusted to determine the course of education for its students, according to the traditions and philosophy of its community and parent body.
RAA Presidium Chairman Rabbi Yaakov Klass stated that “perhaps the single most important issue currently facing the Jewish community of New York City is the freedom to educate our children in a proper yeshivah environment that trains them to be good Americans, and at the same time teaches them to remain true to our faith and traditions. The yeshivah educational system has produced generations of productive, loyal, resourceful, and respectful New Yorkers who have contributed greatly to the growth of the city’s economic, civic, and cultural greatness. The vast and diverse yeshivah system in New York City is currently thriving, as it offers parents a spectrum of schools to fit each child’s unique needs. Never in history has a Jewish parent had so many school choices as in New York City today.”
RAA Executive Vice President Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik noted that “the important wall of separation between state and religion is being breached in a most egregious manner, as evident by the draconian guidelines issued by the New York State Education Department.”
This country was settled due, in part, to the desire to live and raise one’s children according to one’s religion. The constitution protects the right of a citizen to parent and educate one’s child in the religious manner one sees fit.
Jewish schools have done an outstanding job in educating the community’s children. In addition to extensive Judaic content and core secular studies, these schools teach critical thinking, logic, textual skills, and traditional values – skills that are crucial to becoming productive, law-abiding citizens. The numerous graduates of the Jewish educational system and their manifold accomplishments, throughout the USA and abroad, attest to the high quality of Jewish education.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America fully and unequivocally supports all the actions being taken by community leaders supporting religious liberty and Jewish education in combating the edicts of the New York State Education Department encroaching upon the separation of religion and government.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America calls upon the New York State Education Department to abolish these draconian regulations that are, in our considered opinion, both unconstitutional and an infringement on religious freedom, the promise this great country offers all its inhabitants.