YAFFED 5/23/18: Head of Organization for Curriculum Oversight in Orthodox Yeshivas Receives Death Threat

Naftuli Moster, Executive Director of Yaffed, grew up in Borough Park and attended Hasidic Yeshivas.  He founded the organization in 2012 after seeing the gaps in his and his friends’ education.  Yaffed is committed to improving secular education in Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox schools.

Mr. Moster reported on May 23 that he received a death threat via voice mail message.

Read his report here…


News 12 Westchester 5/21/18: YAFFED Head Receives a Death Threat

Jewish education activist says he received death threat

Posted: May 21, 2018 2:37 PM EDT Updated: May 21, 2018 6:06 PM EDT

NEW CITY – A Jewish education activist in Rockland says he received a death threat amidst a public push for equal education standards in yeshivas.

Naftuli Moster’s activism is behind growing state scrutiny into ultra-Orthodox private schools, claiming students aren’t being taught basic subjects as required by law.

He says an apparent critic left him a voicemail message in Yiddish cursing and threatening to kill him last week.

The message allegedly said, “Hi Naftuli Moster – I just want to let you know, I’m going to murder you…you evil person, your blood will spill. You animal, you snitch. Bye.”

Moster says he notified Clarkstown police of the threat.

Moster, a former Hasidic yeshiva student, has spent the last decade advocating for better education for ultra-Orthodox children, founding an organization called Young Advocates for Fair Education. Moster and YAFFED are credited with shining a spotlight on how tens of thousands of Hasidic yeshiva students are allegedly being taught in school.

State law requires yeshiva students receive a similar education to those in public schools – but Moster says that’s not happening, leaving young adults in the community uneducated in basic subjects like English and math.

And while the publicity appears to be frowned upon by critics within the intensely private religious community, Moster says the threat isn’t going to silence him anytime soon.

Clarkstown police say they are actively investigating the threat but that no arrests have been made so far.

Power of Ten 5/22/18 Report on ER School Board Election

On Tuesday, May 22/18 ER held its school board election and the vote on the school budget.  Power of Ten reports:

Thank you to everyone who voted in Tuesday’s election — and of course to our amazing candidates for putting themselves out there. In a district with incredibly difficult odds to win, Pastor Jose Cintron and Miriam Moster deserve our thanks. Thankfully, Sabrina Charles-Pierre ran unopposed and will be serving another term!

School Budget Vote Turnout Analysis:

The total turnout for the school budget vote for all districts in Rockland County was 9%. The turnout in East Ramapo was 10%.

East Ramapo is the only school district whose budget failed. It is also the only district that has to contend with a significant “Bloc Vote”. This consists of about half of the registered voters in East Ramapo.

On average, 6% of registered voters in Rockland supported the school budgets. 9% of East Ramapo voters (excluding the block vote) supported the budget. At one East Ramapo poll, YES votes outnumbered NO votes by 6.75 to 1. No other district in Rockland had this level of support.

The Bloc Vote delivered an 1800 vote advantage for a NO vote at 5 polls. If the Bloc Vote was in any other district in Rockland, that district’s budget would also have been voted down.


Journal News 4/26/18: Federal Judge Denies ER School Board’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit

East Ramapo: Ward system lawsuit moves forward

A federal judge has denied the East Ramapo school district’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit demanding that the at-large voting method used to elect the school board be replaced with a geographic ward system.

Filed in November by a group of parents, the suit claims the at-large system has led to a lack of representation for minorities and seeks a system made up of nine single-member districts to be put in place.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of parents, said U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel denied the district’s motion on April 13 and that the case will move forward.

Read more…

4/24/18: ER School Board Loses Motion to Dismiss NYCLU Lawsuit

Power of Ten Reported:

The Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP says that the system of voting in East Ramapo is discriminatory. It has joined parents in a lawsuit to force the district to stop using the “at-large” system. At-large voting has historically been one of the tactics most often used to disenfranchise voters of color.

Because the East Ramapo school board refused to voluntarily adopt a system that doesn’t discriminate against voters of color, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit. The board has hired its usual very expensive lawyers to fight to maintain the racially biased status quo. They filed a “motion to dismiss”.

The federal judge in White Plains has denied the school board’s motion, and the lawsuit will proceed.

Find details of the lawsuit here…


NY Times 4/4/18: Why is NY Condoning Illiteracy?

Op-Ed Contributor

Why Is New York Condoning Illiteracy?

By Shulem Deen

Mr. Deen was raised in a Hasidic family in New York. A decade ago, he left the Hasidic community and is now a writer.

Children along Bedford Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, 2014.

Last Friday, as observant Jews hurried with last-minute preparations for Passover, one Orthodox Jew was in Albany, holding up the New York State budget. He was insisting that this roughly $168 billion package include a special provision that would allow religious schools to meet the state’s educational requirements by using their long hours of religious instruction.

In recent years, education activists, among them former Hasidic yeshiva graduates, have pushed aggressively to bring the yeshivas into compliance with the state’s education laws. Simcha Felder, the state senator from Brooklyn who represents the heavily ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, was on a mission to get legal permission for the state to turn a blind eye to the near-absence of secular instruction in many yeshivas. The upshot? Tens of thousands of children would continue to graduate without the most basic skills.

I know about the cost. I was one of those kids.              Read more…

Forward 4/4/18: Cuome Calls Rabbi of Kiryas Joel for Yeshiva Oversight Compromise

Cuomo Called The Rebbe. The Rebbe Prayed To God. The Budget Deal Got Done.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo picked up the phone and called the spiritual leader of the New York Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, Satmar Grand Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, to try to shake a compromise out of a recalcitrant state senator.

According to two people familiar with the negotiations, the call was part of an effort by Cuomo to convince the state senator, Simcha Felder, to compromise on his demand that the state budget end government oversight of the curriculum of Jewish day schools.

The call, part of a broader effort by the governor’s office to reach a compromise on the provision, appears to have worked.

Read more:

Politico 3/29/18: Senator Felder Stalls NYS Budget Rejecting Yeshiva Oversight

With budget stalled, Felder pushes moratorium for yeshivas


ALBANY — State Sen. Simcha Felder is pushing for a moratorium that would prevent the state Education Department from updating its guidance on how local school districts are supposed to supervise the curricular standards of nonpublic schools — a stance that legislators say has hobbled progress on the estimated $170 billion state budget, which is stalled on several fronts.

It’s the latest iteration of a push by Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who provides the chamber’s ruling Republicans with a crucial 32nd vote, to prevent investigations into yeshivas serving Orthodox Jews, mostly in Brooklyn. On Monday, he prompted a blow-up in talks when he pushed for an exemption from curriculum requirements.

Read more…

Strong East Ramapo 3/22/18: ER Graduation Rates Improve for African American/ Black Students

Andrew Mandel of Strong East Ramapo cited new graduation statistics as follows:

New York State released district graduation rates last month (data.nysed.gov), and there’s good news — and urgent news. 75% of African-American/Black students graduated from East Ramapo in 2017, which is up from last year and comes close the overall state average of 80% for all students, regardless of background. While we need to keep growing this number, as well as the percentage of students receiving Advanced Regents diplomas (12 percent now), the continued climb is encouraging.

This growth stands in stark contrast to a dire situation with our Latino/Hispanic students, where graduation rates fell from 52 to 37 percent this year (with 7 percent earning a Regents diploma with advanced distinction). We know all children are capable of achieving at high levels! In other districts with large Latino/Hispanic and low-income populations, the numbers are very different: just across the river, 62 percent of Latino students in Ossining — and 81 percent of Latino students in Port Chester (with 22 percent earning an Advanced Regents diploma) – graduated last June. We must therefore understand what is causing our decline, and we ought to determine what programs, services and training are happening in places like Port Chester, so that we can learn how we can concentrate our financial and instructional resources differently. Our 2018-19 budget must reflect these needs.