Opinion: Analyzing the New York Times Hatchet Job Against Yeshivos



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    Opinion: Analyzing the New York Times Hatchet Job Against Yeshivos

    Background image: Jakayla Toney/Unsplash Inset: the NYT article

    The New York Times has written a one-sided attack against the Yeshiva and Torah community that is so filled with inaccuracies and half-stories that it is reminiscent of Tsarist-era attack on the Yeshivas • Opinion by Rabbi Yair Hoffman • Full Article

    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com

    The New York Times has written a one-sided attack against the Yeshiva and Torah community that is so filled with inaccuracies and half-stories that it is reminiscent of Tsarist-era attack on the great institutions of Volozhin and other Yeshivos, started by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin – student of the Vilna Gaon.

    With apologies to Elizabeth Barret Browning, the article would have been more aptly titled, “How do I hate thee? Let Me Count the Ways..”

    1 – The NYT writes: “The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.”  – This is grossly inaccurate, as the Hasidic Jewish community is not one monolithic entity, but a number of independent Hasidic groups.  NYT lumping them all together is not only inaccurate but it seems designed to pander to hate groups – creating a THEM versus us mindset.

    2 – The NYT writes: But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed.

    What the NYT failed to point out is that The National Center for Fair & Open Testing issued a report that tallies cases of cheating on standardized tests in 37 states across the country.  How do the public schools in the report cheat?

    1. – Encourage teachers to view upcoming test forms before they are administered.
    2. – Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school.
    3. – Drill students on actual upcoming test items.
    4. – Use thumbs-up/thumbs-down signals to indicate right and wrong responses.
    5. – Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones.
    6. – Report low-scorers as having been absent on testing day.

    This particular school did none of that.  What is egregious about the article is that there is no mention of this at all anywhere in the article.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is about the timing.  New York State Board of Regents plans to vote on Monday as to whether to adopt equivalency guidelines for Yeshivos.

    3 – The NYT writes:  Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design.

    It must be pointed out that the pass rate of a nearby public school was in the high forty percentile – and that is with the cheating that everyone seems to be ignoring.  Is there something rotten in the State of the New York Times here?  Why is there no indictment or investigation of the public schools system that is a direct product of the New York Board of Regents?  Could it possibly be for the same reason that the New York Times has attacked the religious Jewish community for decades?

    4 – The NYT writes:  The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools.. they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

    Really, brutally?  Was there an internal board meeting of the NYT brass to create a boogeyman here?  There are states in this country such as Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina that do allow corporal punishment in the public school system and since 1985, New York state has not.  But there is no law against it regarding private schools.  Does it happen in some Hasidic yeshivos?  Yes, but it is rare.  The NYT article however included this to create a caricature of “those evil Hasidics..”

    5 – The NYT writes:  The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

    Really?  Trapped in a cycle of joblessness?  Let’s break down New York City’s joblessness rates, shall we? According to US Census Bureau data conducted this decade, 19% in the Fordham/Morris Heights area of the Bronx (District 14) in 2013. The top five City Council districts for highest unemployment were Districts 14, 15, 16, and 17 in the south and central West Bronx, and District 10 in north Manhattan.  Hasidic Jews are by and large employed or studying.  Many of their wages are low, true, but the focus of this ethnic community is to enter into business and they do that from the ground up.

    6 – The NYT writes:  The Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world..The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education.

    Of course, the New York Times states categorically that the rigors of Talmudic reasoning and deduction is “inadequate.”  But even the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic, professor Kevin Macdonald, a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, has written that Talmudic education has created a system that sharpens the minds of its students and by virtue of the fact that the best minds are sought after economically by would be fathers-in-law, it has created through evolutionary processes a people that test some twenty points higher on Alfred Binet’s standard tests

    7 – The NYT writes:  The Times found that “the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.”

    There is the boogeyman again.  It is nice to mention the word “Billion.”  It is scary and causes people to cry, “Thieves!  You are stealing our money!!”  But let’s just do the math here.  Assuming that these schools have 100,000 students that comes out to $2500 per child.  How much does the New York City public school system pay for each child?  It is $28,004.00.  And again, no mention of this at all in the article.

    8 – Warned about the problems over the years, city and state officials have avoided taking action, bowing to the influence of Hasidic leaders who push their followers to vote as a bloc and have made safeguarding the schools their top political priority.

    Well, yeah.  Jewish education is as important to observant Jews as water is to fish.  And yes, Hasidic leaders push their constituents to vote.  My dear Grey Lady, is this statement an ad hominem attack on democracy itself?  Do you negate the very foundation of this country – in dismissing the voice of the democratic votes of people who hold their religion and observance dear to their hearts?  Are all votes created equal, but some votes are more equal than others?

    For shame, New York Times, for shame.

    The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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