Special Edition: COVID Concerns

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: COVID Concerns

As reported in The Forward, concerns have been raised about the lack of safety precautions in many non-public schools.

Public records obtained by Power of Ten revealed that many non-public schools in East Ramapo never actually closed, they simply rebranded themselves as childcare centers.

According to the Journal News, rates of infection are rising in areas where there are many non-public students, including East Ramapo, and officials have “acknowledged links between Rockland’s uptick in cases and COVID-19 clusters found in areas of Brooklyn and Queens that are home to large Orthodox Jewish communities.”

Especially concerning, it is being reported that some yeshivas are discouraging COVID-19 testing to try to avoid closures!!!

It’s important not to blame the whole Jewish community for these actions. The community is not monolithic. There are many, especially health care providers, who are trying to advocate for safe practices, and they deserve our support. The ultra-Orthodox community is often incorrectly labeled as “insular”. In fact, there is very extensive contact with East Ramapo public school families, many of whom work in homes, schools and stores in New Square and Monsey.

The lack of education provided in yeshivas seems to have left too many citizens unable to utilize vital health information. A review by The Power of Ten reveals that of non-public school students in 9-12 grade in East Ramapo, only one in four is enrolled in a program that can lead to a HS diploma.

Again, it’s important not to blame the whole Jewish community for the lack of education. As reported in The City, a Jewish parent who tries to improve the education for her child is facing a Mayor who uses her child’s education for “horse-trading”, a Dept. of Education that delays endlessly, and even a judge who ordered that her child remain in a yeshiva where no secular education was provided!!!

The only way forward, for us as a society, is to hold our institutions accountable. As the Board President of Yaffed writes in The Forward, “How can we expect them to be informed citizens who will vote, sit on juries, and be active participants in civic society, if the institutions tasked with preparing them for adulthood have abdicated this responsibility?.”

My Name is Pedro

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. My Name is Pedro
2. Development in Ramapo Forcing Out Minorities
3. Moshe’s Story

1) My Name is Pedro

Pedro Santana came into our district for only a brief time, and yet his influence is still felt today in the hearts and minds of the many people who knew and loved him, more than six years after his death. Pedro was on a mission to make the world a better place. Pedro’s story has been immortalized in “My Name is Pedro“, a documentary that explores what public education meant to him – a ‘special ed’ child from the Bronx – and what he, in turn, meant to public education. 

The film is now available for streaming online, and there will be a panel discussion online on September 24th at 8:30 pm

Details available at: My Name is Pedro

2) Development in Ramapo Forcing Out Minorities

A new blockbuster investigative report by The Journal News details how actions of the school board majority have contributed to an increasing pattern of housing segregation. Many school board members have been developers and speculators. Have their actions on the board enhanced the profitability of their businesses?

Black families leave struggling East Ramapo school district in search of better education

3) Moshe’s Story

In an opinion piece for USA Today, Monsey resident Moshe Lobel describes his struggle to overcome the educational neglect he experienced in his childhood.

We must end educational neglect in ultra-Orthodox schools. Here’s why:


We Are Not Fooled

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Upcoming Events
2. Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program
3. We Are Not Fooled

1) Upcoming Events

Wednesday, September 16th from 12 PM – 1 PM

Conozca Sus Derechos Abogacia Y Educacion Especial Infantil

Know Your Rights! Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will be holding a Spanish virtual presentation on Child Advocacy and Special Education , “Conozca Sus Derechos Abogacia Y Educacion Especial Infantil”.

Click here to register. http://ow.ly/bdrv50Bg4oJ

Thursday, September 17, 2020 from 12 PM – 1 PM

UnEducated Part 2: Barriers to Self-Sufficiency

Please join Yaffed for another informative panel on the incredible challenges Yeshiva graduates face after being denied a basic education in many ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Yeshivas.
We will hear from Yeshiva graduates and experts as they discuss the difficulties graduates face in seeking employment and achieving self-sufficiency.

Moderator: Ezra Cappell – Professor of Jewish Studies and English – Director of the Perlmutter Fellows Program at the College of Charleston.

Luzer Twersky – Yeshiva Graduate and Parent
Yomaly Suero – Economic Empowerment Program Manager, Footsteps
Naftuli Moster – Executive Director, Yaffed

Register on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Zha5RMfyRv21-nhAz5W81w

Link to view Part 1: https://youtu.be/Bh7nRm_paQo

2) Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program

The Cola-Faroul Mentorship & Scholarship Program has created a GoFundMe to help award as many scholarships as possible to the students that successfully complete the mentorship program.

With over a dozen applicants with great financial needs for funding college, 100% of the money donated will go toward helping them reach their academic goals. Scholarship money will be awarded in the summer before matriculating to the institution of their choice to support financial costs associated with college enrollment.

Full info: https://gf.me/u/yxas8q

3) We Are Not Fooled

New documents have been made public that appear to indicate attempts to mislead state and local authorities.

The first document (PX088) is a text conversation between Hersh Horowitz, the CEO of the Yeshiva Association of Rockland County and Harry Grossman, the President of the East Ramapo School Board. Rabbi Horowitz and Mr. Grossman appear to be conspiring to deceive the Superintendent regarding the lack of education in chasidish boys yeshivas.

Hersh Horowitz: …we are … advancing the secular studies in the chasidish boys schools so at least they learn the basics and they can communicate properly However Im not focused now on historyscience … We are focusing mostly on English … So when superintendent comes to visit she will be able to communicate with the students
Harry Grossman: … math is very pareve and easy to bring in as well as the next step … What do you think about getting to the point where all (yeshivas) can give Regent diploma
Hersh Horowitz: Long way to go
Harry Grossman: That would be … Good pr (Public Relations) Always subject to change
Harry Grossman: The ou (Orthodox Union) just got Albany to give $15 mil for STEM education…
Hersh Horowitz: Funding was very complicated and too many strings attached

School Board President Grossman has sworn an oath to execute the duties of a school board member, duties which include ensuring that students enrolled in non-public schools receive an education which is at least “substantially equivalent” to the education in public schools. This record of his interaction with Rabbi Horowitz reveals that he was aware that many students were not receiving even enough education to communicate in English with the East Ramapo Superintendent, and that he approved a plan to prevent the Superintendent from becoming fully aware of the situation by providing just enough English to prevent discovery that children were receiving essentially no instruction in History, Science etc:

The second document (CRCI_case47947_15ElyonRd-CongKhalTorath-redacted) is a response to health code violations by lawyers representing a yeshiva. These violations were the result of complaints that the school was open when schools were ordered closed due to the pandemic. The writer (Mr. Mahon) claims to speak on behalf of dozens of religious schools.

Mr. Mahon explains that although the same students were in the same buildings with the same staff, they were operating as a childcare service and not as a school. On pages 2 and 3 of his letter he claims that he informed the schools that the Governor’s Executive Order forbids the operation of schools, and that “required instructional programs” and “regular classroom learning” cannot take place. On page 7 of the same letter he states that “private religious instruction” is permitted.

This contradicts what yeshiva lobbyists have claimed, that religious education includes “critical thinking skills” that must be counted towards fulfilling ‘regular’ educational requirements. 

It appears that when lawyers need to get around the COVID school closures, religious instruction is represented as NOT “regular” learning, but when lobbyists want to get around substantial equivalency regulations, it IS represented as some kind of “regular” learning.

The truth is that all children deserve a quality education and they are entitled to it by law. Getting an education does not interfere with religious instruction – there are many schools which are very successful at both. COVID does not care whether a building or a bus is labelled “yeshiva” or “childcare”. Hours spent poring over religious texts is not “substantially equivalent” to STEM education. 

The lobbyists, the lawyers, the yeshiva association and the school board president can fool some of the people some of the time, but they cannot fool all the people all the time. The human desire for knowledge and equality has a long history of overcoming fools.