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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 

Math and science absent from quite a few Brooklyn yeshivas

DNAinfo in New York (via Gothamist) finds that a lot of Haredi yeshivas in Brooklyn teach little or no subjects that aren't related to Torah/Talmud, and sometimes not even English:
Recess provides Uriyah with a welcome break from the hard work of timed math tests, English language drills and science projects, subjects the majority of the 84,000 children who attend Jewish parochial schools in Brooklyn never get. Lamplighters is an exception — most Orthodox Jewish schools offer limited instruction in English, math and science, and some don't teach them at all despite being legally required to do so, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

Shmueli Lowenstein's experience is much more common. The 25-year-old is a former student at Oholei Torah, the most prominent yeshiva in Crown Heights, where, he said, “I did not grow up learning English or any kind of secular studies at all,” and subjects like phonics and math were “nonexistent."

“Everything was done in Yiddish until seventh or eighth grade, and then they would switch to Hebrew," Lowenstein said. "I don’t think I ever received a paper with English writing on it, except for maybe a permission slip for a school trip.”

Under New York state and federal regulations, stories like Lowenstein’s shouldn’t be possible — all New York schools, public and private, are required to offer "equivalency of instruction" in basic general subjects such as American history and math.

The state allows religious students to omit evolution questions on the Regents exam, but there is no waiver to exclude science from the curriculum.

Oholei Torah would not answer questions about its curriculum.

But more than a dozen parents, teachers and students told DNAinfo.com New York that many of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish schools fall shy of even that narrow requirement, offering only an hour or two a day of pro-forma instruction for general subjects, if any.

“There are a number of schools which have absolutely no pretenses of it — kids from 3-years-old to 18 have no secular education at all, ” said Zalman Alpert, a librarian at Yeshiva University and an expert on the Orthodox community.

“Many other schools in Borough Park and Williamsburg are testing the waters about either doing away with secular studies altogether or ratcheting it down another few levels.”
Not teaching them skills like mathematics makes it impossible for them to build a synagogue, a mikveh, or even another yeshiva. Not only is this unfair to the students, it makes it impossible for them to really find success in life or to develop good social skills. Whoever thought socialism and ghetto mentality of this kind was possible to keep going?

The more I think about it, the more I can only conclude that the Haredi lifestyle is simply not a sustainable one, nor is it a good role model.

Update: The Jerusalem Post has followed up on this news.

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