Opinion: Hasidic private schools need to teach more secular studies


Graphic by Daniela Abrams, LT

Sasha Karasik, Reporter

Every child has the right to an education, and religion should not be used as an excuse to not provide one. 

The New York Times conducted a private investigation concerning the poor education students receive at several Hasidic private schools in New York City. These so-called “schools” teach only the most fundamental levels of English and math, and have virtually no science or history courses. 

Democratic congressman Jerrold Hadler, who is both the U.S. representative for New York’s 10th Congressional District and the longest-serving Jewish member of the House voiced concern about the education going on in these religious schools. Hadler himself is yeshiva educated and understands the lack of focus on secular studies in religious academies. An array of politicians from Hadler to New York State Senator Julia Salazar have expressed shock and worry. 

I understand that parents have complete freedom to choose the education their children receive. They have the right to enroll their children in extracurricular activities, send their child to private school and make decisions that they as parents feel are the best for their child’s well being. However, denying your child fundamental rights, such as the basic education necessary to live and support themselves in the modern world, is unjust.  

Yes, these Hasidic children might agree with and even appreciate all their parents’ decisions now, but how would they even be able to dispute it when they are not given any information or skills to live independently? Without proper education, these children are forced into a life dependent on the community they live in. 

As a student who goes to a Jewish school, I can advocate for the fact that getting a Jewish education is important to both me and my family. However, I can also confidently say that the secular education I receive does not defy my knowledge of Jewish studies nor does it make me any less of a Jew. If anything, my dual education gives me unique perspectives on both secular studies and Judaic studies. 

While the parents sending their children to these failing Hasidic schools may be a product of this self-perpetuating system, and therefore do not know any better, the state of New York is also responsible for this issue getting so out of hand. New York has a duty towards these children to ensure that they are properly educated. Many have raised concerns about this issue for over a decade now, and yet still, nothing has been done to actually address the issue head-on. 

A person’s decision to observe their religious beliefs and raise their children with those same beliefs is an individual, private decision that should never be taken away or infringed on. However, parents’ religious beliefs should not take precedence over children’s education and ability to function in a secular society.