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Those Lousy Jewish Schools?

Apr 16, 2018 by

Jewish private schools have taken a lot of flak recently. Critics claim their students are suffering educational neglect because of a narrow curriculum that excludes certain mainstream subjects and thereby breaks state law by failing to deliver instruction “substantially equivalent” to that guaranteed by public schools.

In any contest of accrued and retained knowledge in most subject areas,  average Yeshiva students would thrash their public school counterparts.

And while a mediocre Yeshiva enrollee can argue the natural laws of creation, there are many public school principals these days who can’t make the subject and verb of a simple sentence agree.

The censure of Jewish schools may be driven in part by anti-semitism in a thinly-veiled guise of quality education advocacy. We see a similar costume elsewhere clothed as human rights espousal in the Middle East.

Exacerbating the Jewish school disquiet and conveniently playing into the hands of detractors, is the position originally taken by State Senator Simcha Felder, from Brooklyn,who obstructed and delayed the finalization of the New York State budget until a compromise was eventually reached.

That sensible settlement called for the inclusion of the Jewish schools’ total curriculum and their propensity for sharpening their students’ critical thinking skills as factors for the state to consider when evaluating whether these schools were complying with the law and meeting mandated standards. While deferring  to the authority and broader educational priorities of the state, it also respects those of the Jewish schools.

That’s fair enough. Especially in light of the recently-published appalling news that two-thirds of American millennials know nothing about the nature of Auschwitz or its primary victims.  And although the percentage of the general population that can identify or sympathize with the chief target of the worst crime in human history may be statistically significant, it is not significant enough.

Count many secular Jews in this category. They too can’t distinguish between the ghetto of Brownsville and the Warsaw Ghetto, or the Trail of Tears and Treblinka.

If religious Jewish schools did not give the Holocaust prominence in their studies, it would be a footnote, if even that, in the approved instructional texts of public schools and the private schools of other religious affiliations. Still, even a marginal note is a step up from the trivialization, denial, or even celebration of the Holocaust, which is no longer unthinkable or even uncommon  at colleges and in what used to be called  “polite society.”

Neither would anyone show up at the Jackson Heights,Queens, house of Jakiw Palij, a Nazi death camp devil, who was ordered deported in 2004, but who in his dotage still snorts our air while collecting social security payouts from American taxpayers.

Except for some kids from Jewish schools, most everyone else thinks we should leave the poor elder statesman alone. But these spirit-driven students and their teachers appear from time to time, to heckle and hound the scoundrel. But they are not supported by any other community.

Complete and utter detachment for the plight of Jews is a phenomenon with deep historical roots branches and twigs among the traditions and cultures of the world.

But perhaps there is a simpler explanation. Although stipulated, it’s not “rigorous” enough to be a binding part of the New York State curriculum.

The Jewish schools were singled out for aspersion. But they know how to make lemonade from lemons. By winning Nobel Prizes.

Ron Isaac

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