Thu, 15 September 2022
On September 11, 2022, the New York Times published a leading story about the hasidic schools of greater New York. The article, “In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush with Public Money,” purported to show that, though New York’s hasidic Jewish religious schools have benefited from $1 billion in government funding in the last four years, they provide extremely poor secular education, deploy corporal punishment in class, abuse the political process, and are unaccountable to outside oversight. The article inspired outrage from a variety of parties; rarely has the public—and especially the Jewish public—been so animated by the educational performance of New York’s yeshivas.
Beyond the article, deeper questions come to the surface. What obligations do religious communities have to the state? What obligations does a state, one that’s constituted to protect religious liberty and individual rights, owe to families and their decisions? And why, as the authors of this feature do not ask, do so many families choose these schools for their children in the first place?
To help us think about these important questions in the context of the NYT story, our guest on this week’s podcast is the Mosaic columnist and hasidic educator Eli Spitzer, who wrote an essay about this very issue for Mosaic back in October 2021 called “NY State vs. the Yeshivas.” In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he explains what hasidic schools are really like, how those communities think about education and the secular world, and the important issues that the Times article fails to address. This discussion was recorded online in front of Mosaic subscribers.