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State, city ordered to finish investigation of NYC yeshiva

City and state education agencies have been ordered to finish an investigation into whether a Brooklyn yeshiva is providing students with a sound, basic education.

A New York Supreme Court judge has ruled the departments abdicated their responsibility to investigate whether the school — Yeshiva Mesivta Arugath Habosem — offers an education that is “substantially equivalent” to the public school system, court documents show.

“The court’s ruling should send a clear message to the NYC DOE that it is their responsibility to conclude their investigations into non-compliant yeshivas in a timely fashion,” said Naftuli Moster, executive director of Young Advocates For Fair Education, a pro-secular education in yeshivas group, on Wednesday.

The case concerns Beatrice Weber, a mom of 10 who left her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, but under a family court order had to send her child to a Brooklyn yeshiva — her ex-husband’s school of choice.

Beatrice Weber actively spoke out about her child’s yeshiva education.
Steven Hirsch

Weber filed a petition in September 2019 with the New York State Education Department against the DOE and the yeshiva, alleging her then-8-year-old son was not receiving the secular education required in the state.

State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa dismissed the petition, suggesting it was premature until the city investigated the allegations — leading Weber to appeal to the New York Supreme Court.

This week Justice Adam Silverman ordered the agencies to complete their investigation into the Brooklyn yeshiva by September 2022.

The departments didn't fulfill their role to investigate whether Yeshiva Mesivta Arugath Habosem offers similar education to public schools.
The departments didn’t fulfill their role to investigate whether Yeshiva Mesivta Arugath Habosem offers similar education to public schools.
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“Although this case dragged on and my son lost valuable years of learning, I feel greatly vindicated by this ruling and am hopeful that other parents will be inspired by my actions,” said Weber.

The decision comes as yeshivas have sent thousands of letters pushing back against draft state oversight rules for nonpublic schools, ahead of voting on a final policy later this year.

While state officials maintain the proposal ensures students a fair education, letter-writers from the yeshivas said it hinders their ability to provide Jewish children with religious schooling.

David C Bloomfield
Professor David Bloomfield
Craig Stokle

David Bloomfield, a professor of education law and policy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, called this week’s decision “historic in two respects” — that it gives individual parents alleging a lack of secular education under state law access to judicial relief, and that the court ordered the state and city to stop dragging their feet.

“The only issue is how many parents will avail themselves of that opportunity,” Bloomfield said.

“For the most part, the parents of ultra-Orthodox students know and appear to be satisfied there isn’t the necessary secular instruction, which makes it even more important for the state and city to enforce the law,” he added. “Even if a parent says I want my kid to know Talmud and Torah, that’s not what the law says.” 

Bloomfield also weighed in on its impact on investigations into other yeshivas, after allegations against former Mayor Bill de Blasio said he delayed reports on their quality for his political benefit.

“Mayor Adams has aligned himself with ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, and there’s no indication at this point that he plans to jumpstart the required investigations that were similarly delayed under de Blasio,” he said.

The State Education Department is evaluating the decision and waiting for the city to complete its investigation, said Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for the agency.

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