Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Children posing as religious prisoners in Albany.

The battle over whether the state Education Department should have the authority to regulate private school yeshivas and to what extent has come to an end, at least for now.

The governing body for education policy in the state, the 17-member Board of Regents, has voted to require the teaching of English, math, science and history or the substantial equivalent of those subjects in private schools statewide.

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Regent Susan Mittler, who is Jewish, told The Jewish Press on Monday that the Board has to look at the issue from a different lens than just the ultra-Orthodox community, which is protesting the new rules and regulations. Another Jewish regent, Roger Tilles, was not physically present for the two-day meeting. He was at his Long Island home, possibly watching via a remote feed. Tilles was honored Tuesday evening at the Voices 4 Truth and Humanity: Third Annual Remembrance Awards Dinner in Woodbury, Nassau County, promoting Holocaust education in public schools.

Rabbonim who attended the rally.
Some of the crowd at the rally.

 

Also on Monday, a group of more than 100 chassidic men and children from Orange and Rockland counties, just north of New York City, rallied for three hours in Albany, renting out a nearby armory and making speeches in Yiddish only. A few protesters attending the rally were from Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

A speaker at the rally in Albany.

Many of the attendees at the rally did not want to publicly speak about the controversy in English. One organizer from Monroe, Orange County, told The Jewish Press this policy would destroy the insular aspect of their kehillah for their children. He said the community does not want their children mixing with the secular community physically, emotionally or intellectually.

“We are trying to obviously adhere to the law but also create some flexibility around that as well,” state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said Monday.

One organization may be ready to take this decision to court in an attempt to get the ruling reversed.

A sign from the rally in Albany.

“Agudath Israel remains deeply concerned that the state is moving forward with its plan to intrude upon and regulate the curriculum of private schools,” said Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, in a prepared statement.

“The specter of the government overriding the will of parents and dictating how and what we teach in our private, religious schools is frightening. We also note the Regulation’s inclusion of several alternate pathways described in the Regulations, which provide avenues for private schools to be deemed equivalent and avoid the need for intrusive and subjective local authority inspections. We have opposed government intrusion in our schools many times, and fought prior incarnations of the Regulations in court, in Albany and together with the broader Orthodox community and many others as part of the first and second public comment periods. We will continue to fight on behalf of our community to protect the autonomy of private, religious schools, as needed.”

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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at swnsonline@gmail.com.