Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Elders of Ramapo

It is a news story like the one in the Forward that fuel anti-Semitic books like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was a fraudulent work about a Jewish plan to take over the world first published in Russia in 1903, translated into many languages, and later disseminated by renowned anti-Semite, Henry Ford.

One would think that by now in the post Holocaust 21st century - publications like this would be extinct. But that is far from the case. It is alive and well - flourishing and thriving in certain parts of the world. There are many reasons for this. But it does not help us that religious Jews in positions of power do the kinds of things described in the Forward article.

The picture painted is to say the least not flattering. We are once again talking about highly visible religious Jews involved in manipulation of government resources - and in one case possible criminal fraud.

The setting is Rockland County’s East Ramapo Central School District. East Ramapo encompasses the fully Chasidic enclave of New Square and the highly Orthodox town of Monsey, N.Y. The school district’s 8000 student population is 54% black. But 5 of the 9 seats on the board are taken by Orthodox Jews, 4 of which are Chasidic.

Just to be clear, school board members are elected. Each of these members are there legally. The fact that the majority of the school system population is black probably does not reflect the voting majority. My guess is that the actual Jewish percentage of the population is well over 54% - probably closer to 60 or 70% - the vast majority of them being Orthodox. All are legal citizens with the right to vote. The reason for the non Jewish majority in the public schools should be obvious to most Orthodox Jews. Our children are not in the system. We send them to private parochial schools.

The fact that Orthodox Jews comprise a majority of the school board should not however bias them towards the needs of the non public school parents. Their first obligation is to the public schools whose interests are supposed to be the primary concern of the board.

But that is not how it is playing out. This is not to say that the board should be insensitive to the wider community. Of course it should. That is what compromise is about. The ideal situation is to first meet the needs of the public schools and to then see what they can do to accommodate the district’s citizens. Unfortunately the reverse seems to be the case.

No one understands the educational needs of Orthodox Jewry more than I do. I have spent over 40 years dealing with these issues – some of which are identical to those of Monsey and New Square’s educational needs. I was directly involved with the sale of a Chicago Public School building to Hanna Sacks Beis Yaakov. This is currently one of the East Ramapo board’s issues. Their board voted to sell a recently closed school to the 2 Yeshivos who currently lease and occupy the building.

For the record, I have no problem with a public School district selling a building. I just have a problem with what seems to be the heavy handed way in which this and other things like it are being done.

This is unlike what happened in Chicago with Hanna Sacks. We worked diligently with the local school board, the Chicago Public Schools, local politicians, and Mayor Richard M. Daley to not only secure the sale of that building but to guarantee that a brand new state of the art expansion to an existing school was secured to meet public school needs. We did not ‘pack’ the board with religious Jews so that we could just vote the sale of the building to Hanna Sacks. Which is in effect what the East Ramapo School District is allegedly trying to do.

As if that were not enough that board actually had the Chutzpah to try and absorb into the district a Yiddish speaking special education program.


That plan was dropped after the NAACP and other civil rights groups complained about the inherent contradiction of a public school supporting an all white totally religious enterprise. The East Ramapo board has since dropped the idea - probably because it was seen as precipitating an investigation by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.


But these events pale in comparison to what has unfortunately become an all too common event in our circles: criminal activity! The recently resigned president of the Ramapo Education Board who was also an elected commissioner of the Monsey Fire District has apparently used his position there to set up a real estate deal between the fire district and someone to whom he owed money! He faces felony mail fraud charges!

I am not here to ascertain the guilt or innocence of the accused. That is for the courts to decide. But this is just more fuel on the fire.

And then there is this:

Also running for Rothschild’s seat is Yehuda Weissmandl, a Rockland County property developer who faced criticism over a road that was mysteriously cleared through a fence between the Hillcrest School’s playing fields and the Hasidic town of New Square, which abuts the school’s back fence. Weissmandl, who was overseeing construction in the area at the time, said the fence had been knocked over by a tree.

A tree. Right!

What an embarrassment this whole thing is! And what a bonanza for the anti Semites of the world! It makes ‘Protocols’ such an easy sell!