New York – Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Challenges City And State To Enforce Laws Regarding Secular Education In NYC Yeshivas


    FILE - Defense attorney Norman Siegel at work in his Manhattan office on Sunday, October 26, 2014. (Photo By: Jefferson Siegel/NY Daily News via Getty Images)New York – A movement to enforce higher educational standards in the secular studies curriculum at private schools has gained momentum, with a noted civil rights lawyer petitioning city and state officials to enforce existing state educational laws in New York City yeshivas.

    Norman Siegel, the former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union who has fought for numerous activists in the courtroom, is representing Naftuli Moster and YAFFED, Young Advocates for Fair Education.

    As previously reported on VIN News, Moster has been waging a campaign for the last year and a half to force yeshivas to supply their students with a better secular education as required by the New York State Department of Education.

    In a December 8th letter addressed to Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman, Mayor de Blasio and New York City Schools Chancellor Farina, Siegel asked both city and state authorities to investigate the quality of secular education in certain Orthodox yeshivas and to take the necessary steps to ensure that these schools are in compliance with state laws.

    Siegel’s letter does not mention the names of any specific yeshivas, but Siegel said that he hopes to meet with officials and that he would consider listing yeshivas that he believes are failing, should he be asked to do so in that meeting.

    “They have an obligation under the law to provide an education that is at least substantially equivalent to the education that is given to minors at public schools,” Siegel told VIN News. “We believe that there is enough information that this isn’t taking place and the city and state have a legal obligation to students.”

    According to Siegel, yesterday’s letter was the first step of what may turn into a lengthy process.

    “Step one is to give them an opportunity to listen to what is happening at some, not all, yeshivas,” explained Siegel. “If they do what they are supposed to do by law, it might satisfy our concerns. If they ignore this letter, as they have done to Mr. Moster in the past, we might give serious thought to litigating.”

    Siegel’s letter references the New York State Education Department’s Guidelines for Determining Equivalency of Instruction in Nonpublic Schools, which specify that English language instruction is mandatory in grades one through twelve, with other required subjects including math, science, history, social studies and physical education.

    The letter also references Education Law Section 3204 which states that non-public school instruction must take place in English, with English language textbooks, and that special programs must be provided for students whose English knowledge is limited. Siegel’s letter also notes that while girls’ education is typically on a higher level in the yeshiva system, it was unknown whether the secular education being provided at girls’ schools is compliant with state laws.

    Siegel said that he hopes to hear back from officials shortly and that because of the upcoming holiday season, he would wait until sometime in January before escalating the matter further.

    “I hope that this letter conveys the seriousness of the issue,” said Siegel. “We have cited federal cases to let them know the provision about certain minimum reasonable educational requirement has been upheld by the courts and we are cautiously optimistic that state and city officials will respond in the right way,”

    Having grown up in Borough Park and having represented Orthodox Jews in several cases, Siegel feels confident that he understands the needs and sensitivities of the Jewish community. He acknowledged that there will be those who are not in favor of further enhancing the secular curriculum in yeshivas, particularly in the Chasidic community.

    “People generally don’t like it when someone challenges the status quo and are often very resistant to change,” noted Siegel. “I will try to be extremely sensitive to the community’s issues but the bottom line is that if they are not complying with the law, someone has to do something to remedy that.”

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    8 years ago

    And of course the teaching of evolution will be included as well as gay marriage as is being done in all NYC public schools. This is what you get for electing liberal bums to office.

    8 years ago

    Norman Siegel should worry more about the failed public school system were it was just reported that over sixty percent students know very little grammar very little math and so on. It was also just reported and almost all who apply to become public school teachers fail the test.

    As far as this Moster guy, i don’t blame him. He and his ilks are a typical example of failures. Very very few who leave Yiddishkeit become successful even after they supposedly graduate college. They cant make it in the outside world they come back blaming the orthodox community.
    In the other hand loads of ultra-orthodox Jews become successful and when they need professionals they hire people from the outside.
    Nice try,Moster and Siegel. Governor Coumo knows the truth and he knows that in the orthodox communities he never has to send the National guards.

    8 years ago

    If this results in all frum boys getting even a basic education, our community will be forever indebted to the activists behind this effort. Hatzlacha!

    Dr. E
    Dr. E(@dr-e)
    8 years ago

    An increase in standards will not be all that relevant as most Yeshivas do not have Secular Studies programs anymore.

    8 years ago

    This is the money quote which explains just what is wrong with Siegel and his “activism”:

    “but the bottom line is that if they are complying with the law, someone has to do something to remedy that”

    8 years ago

    While I strongly believe the current Yeshiva system is not sustainable for the Jewish community in the future (unless you believe systematic welfare and occasional fraud a good idea), the government has no right to tell private institutions what to teach. As long as the Yeshiva system continues to not be funded by the government, government needs to stay out of the Yeshiva education business. If there is a decision to provide a Secular education, this needs to come from within and embraced by the Jewish community.

    8 years ago

    The parents need to want this for their kids. Without their impute this will fail.

    8 years ago

    Most if not all yeshivas are receiving final subsidy from the government provided that they abide by the rules.

    8 years ago

    Norman Siegel and his ACLU buddies have absolutely no interest in the well being of the Orthodox community.
    These radical leftists have one common goal how to bring down the Orthodox Jewish community, They hate with passion anyone who believes in Hashem.

    8 years ago

    What does the so called “higher education” do ? drugs and pill addiction? violent crimes? depression?

    8 years ago

    Rishey Yisroel

    8 years ago

    I am sure lots genuises pipe up and say what do you mean I know someone who owns tons of real estate and five insurance companies yet no high school eduaction. You may able to prove your point by saying over the story of the shammos in the pickle factory or the secular version is the verger. But in reality its far from realistic