Photo Credit: Courtesy United States Courts (L) and US Embassy in Israel
Judge Israel Leo Glasser and Chassidic yeshiva students

Senior United States Judge of the Eastern District of New York Israel Leo Glasser, who is 95 years of age but can apparently still recognize educational colonialism when he sees it, on Wednesday decided against the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last July by the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED).

YAFFED, a Rockland County-based education advocacy group, claimed that an amendment to a NY State law relaxes academic standards for Haredi yeshivas is unconstitutional, and subjects Chassidic students “sub-standard secular education.” Their 35-page lawsuit named Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa as defendants.

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The amendment in question, known as Felder’s Amendment, was passed as part of state budget last April and was signed into law by the governor.

New York State Senator Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park, Midwood) refused to support the state’s budget until the Senate gave in and agreed to stay out of the curriculum of Chassidic yeshivas, essentially removing the powers of inspection of the education departments for the state as well as for the city from religious schools whose parents are disinterested in endowing their sons with secular learning.

Whether the Senator is an angel or a devil in your book (few media outlets applauded his victory), his amendment pushed back the government’s interference in our children’s education, which should be valued by all Americans, Liberals and Conservatives alike.

Judge Glasser referred to the state’s education law, which demands that private schools—including parochial ones—must deliver instruction which is “at least substantially equivalent” to the instruction delivered by public schools in their district. But the judge pointed out that the law is sloppy and leaves much to biased interpretation. It turns out there are no hard and fast rules to determine the meaning of “substantially equivalent.” As a result, the state dept. of education for years got away with guidelines that “essentially incorporated most of the statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to public schools.”

But Chassidic yeshivas hold by an entirely different set of values, sanctioned by their communities, which, obviously, includes the parents. In a sense, as Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS) argued in their friends of the court brief supporting the defendants, the state and the city depts. of education were questioning why the Chassidic apples weren’t more orange.

The judge cited the pro-yeshivas brief, noting: “Orthodox Jewish parents choose yeshiva education for their children to fulfill the Biblical injunction that ‘You shall place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul … and you shall teach them to your children to speak in them.’ Deuteronomy 11:18-19. [and …] The Bible says of Abraham, ‘I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord.’ Genesis 18:19.”

In deciding the case, the judge pointed to a lack of the “concreteness and immediacy required for standing” by YAFFED, whose lawsuit was essentially hypothetical. YAFFED challenged the constitutionality of the Felder Amendment “based on the possibility that the NYC dept. of education might, in the future, apply it in a manner that disadvantages students at Chassidic yeshivas.”

Not real enough. Case dismissed.

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