Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
A yeshiva elementary school classroom in Jerusalem.
A yeshiva elementary school

Leading Orthodox Jewish educators and other professionals have filed affidavits supporting a request to the court on Monday for a preliminary injunction against recently passed New York State regulations on private school curricula, Hamodia reported.

The motion argues that the regulations approved unanimously September 13 by the New York State Board of Regents violate the constitutional rights of Orthodox Jewish families as well as state education laws.

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The motion was filed Monday in state Supreme Court by attorney Avi Schick (Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP) on behalf of the Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), Agudath Israel of America, and Torah Umesorah; and Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Torah Vodaath, Tifereth Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Joseph and Ch’san Sofer.

Affidavits supporting the motion were filed by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath; Professor Aaron Twerski, Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School; Professor Moshe Krakowski, head of the doctoral program in Jewish education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; and Avraham Weinstock, Chief of Staff at Agudath Israel of America.

“The State should not interfere with the internal religious life of a community that is flourishing. Haredim and Hasidim are good citizens, they earn good livings, and they contribute to society in innumerable ways,” Professor Krakowski wrote in his affidavit.

“These regulations will force religious change on large segments of the Orthodox Jewish community. They would force haredim to leave New York State or risk having their entire religious life wiped out in an act of cultural genocide.”

The lawsuit is aimed at countering allegations by past graduates of Hasidic yeshivas that their education inadequately prepared them to earn a living and participate in contemporary society.

It argues the public comment process that preceded the Board of Regents’ vote was “nothing more than a sham” and led simply to passage of the regulations without addressing the issues raised in the more than 350,000 comments received.

“This was what NYSED (NYS Education Department) intended all along: to enact the New Regulations as initially proposed, regardless of the public comments received and alternatives proposed,” the petitioners wrote.

“NYSED treated the public comment period not as means to an end — to consider criticisms and alternatives — but as an end in itself. The failure to accept any revision or alternatives from among the thousands that were proposed was NYSED’s goal for the public comment period, not the result of its review.”

A lawsuit filed last month in State Supreme Court in Albany in response to passage of the new regulations alleges the rules violate plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and similar clauses in the New York State Constitution.

That lawsuit, filed by a consortium that included Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), Agudath Israel of America, Torah Umesorah, and Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Torah Vodaath, Tifereth Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Joseph and Ch’san Sofer, named Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young and Education Commissioner Betty Rosa as defendants.

“Yeshivas are subject to unequal treatment and are threatened with closure for offering the sort of culturally and linguistically sustaining education the NYSED [New York State Education Department] lauds in public schools,” that lawsuit reads.

“In particular, the New Regulations require that instruction be in English for all common branch subjects, even though numerous public schools with designated ‘Dual Language Programs’ are permitted to teach the vast majority of their instruction in a language other than English. . . Thus, in supposed pursuit of ‘equivalency’ the New Regulations impose more restrictive standards on nonpublic schools than on public schools.”

Yeshiva advocates contend that a yeshiva education is superior to that offered in public schools and that such graduates live more productive lives than those who complete their education in a public system.

Since the late 1800s, New York State law has required private schools to provide an education “at least substantially equivalent” to that provided in the public school system but did not specify how that standard is determined.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.