Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Chasidic Commitment to Better Education

Assemblyman Dov Hikind attending the event (VIN)
There was a story in VIN yesterday about something called ‘Yeshiva Education Expo’. It was an exposition featuring students displaying and discussing the secular studies they are being taught at their respective Chasidic schools. It is accompanied by a video (available for viewing below) wherein Chasidic boys had displays about the subjects they were taught and spoke about them. One of the presentations that stood out was given by a 12 year old boy: 
12 year old Yitzchok Drew, an eighth grader at Yeshiva Beth Hillel Krasna,  was excited to share his three dimensional project which involved painted rivers, streams and mountains, fluffy white cotton ball clouds, a Lego fisherman and a model of a water tower. 
“It is a simple but interesting cycle,” said Drew, who gave a detailed description of how the heat of the sun causes oceans to emit vapors which condense into clouds. Electrical currents produced in the clouds cause thunder, lightning and the rain which ultimately fills the water sources that supply our home faucets. 
I was very happy to see this. If only this was the standard for all Chasidic Yeshivos. But clearly it is not. To the best of my knowledge the largest group of Chasidim, Satmar, has no program of any sort that is even close to being comparable to this.

How do I know Satmar was not part of this exposition? I don’t. But they were not mentioned in the story along with the other Chasidic Yeshivos that were participants. Most telling for me, however, is the fact that these young Chasidim spoke English like Americans. (...well at least like New Yorkers from Brooklyn. But that’s close enough.) They did not have the European sounding accents that characterize the way Satmar Chasdim speak English - even if they are born here. 

The language of Statmar is Yiddish. That is virtually the only language Satmar children hear spoken in the home as they grow up. They eventually learn English as a second language – same as immigrants do. And when they speak it sounds that way. Those that don’t have such accents work hard at getting rid of them. Most do not.

I suppose this fair was held to demonstrate that Chasidic schools do offer secular subjects and that the children are interested in them. And the parents are pleased with that. All well and good. I never doubted that such schools exist. Assuming that their education will continue along these lines in high school, these children are being given the basic tools they will need to succeed in advanced studies - if they so choose - which will give them decent careers and enable them to better support their families when they get married.

These schools are not the ones I am concerned about, though. I am concerned with those like Satmar. Which is largest segment of Chasidim, They do not offer anything like this to their children. And they fight any attempts to bring this kind of curriculum into their schools.

It upsets me when I hear people trying to do that called Mosrim (informers against the Jewish people). It concerns me when Chasidic rebbes get upset that government authorities will no longer be turning a blind eye to their avoidance of teaching required subjects. It upsets me that these leaders refuse to give their Chasidim the tools to pursue an education that will enable them to get better jobs and support their families. It concerns me that they look at government subsidies to make up for that lack.

Now if I’m wrong, and Satmar (and like minded Chasidim like those of New Square) are actually going to be teaching their boys along the lines of the students at this fair, I will be exceedingly happy to stand corrected. But I am not holding my breath.

Which means that in lieu of changing their educational infrastructure - Satmar will continue to grow their populace at an exponential rate; take increasing sums of welfare payments. All while living their lives in isolation from the rest of the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead they took a cue from this fair and changed direction?