In speech, Mayor Eric Adams says public schools should "duplicate" yeshiva achievements

Adams said religion should be in schools “anywhere possible.”

May 12, 2023 12:45 PM


In a speech given Wednesday night, mayor Eric Adams suggested that yeshiva students are better off than public school students, and that religion should be in schools “anywhere possible.”

The speech was given at an event for Teach NYS, which is part of the Orthodox Union, which represents Modern Orthodox Jews. In it, Adams condemned yeshiva critics, but made no distinction between Hasidic and Modern Orthodox schools. A September report from the New York Times found that many Hasidic yeshivas fail to provide an adequate secular education, to the point where some boys graduate high school without speaking fluent English. The Times also found that teachers at some Hasidic yeshivas regularly use corporal punishment.

In 2015, New York City’s education department announced it would investigate complaints about the quality of secular education in Hasidic schools. (The complaint did not include Modern Orthodox schools, which generally provide a thorough secular education.) In January, the state education department ordered that the city complete its investigation no later than June 30, including specific reviews of individual schools.

The mayor began his speech by painting a grim picture of the secular world. He described problems that children across the city and country face, such as cannabis and fentanyl use, harmful use of social media, and mental illness, suggesting that yeshiva students don’t have these problems.

“The children are in a state of despair at an epic proportion, but instead of us focusing on how do we duplicate the success of improving our children, we attack the yeshivas that are providing a quality education that is embracing our children,” he said.

“I saw numbers just the other day, asking questions about what is happening at our yeshivas across the city and state. At the same time, 65% of Black and brown children never reach proficiency in the public school system,” Adams said, citing a statistic that he uses often in speeches. “We’re asking what are you doing in your schools. We need to ask, what are we doing wrong in our schools, and learn what you are doing in yeshivas to improve education.”

“We need to be duplicating what you are achieving,” he said.

Adams also discussed the role of religion in government.

“Let’s embrace those that believe in the quality of this country and the quality of this state, and uplift families, and children, and education, and that appreciate the religious philosophies that are a part of the educational opportunities,” he said. “I don’t apologize for believing in God.”

“Faith is who we are,” Adams added. “We are a country of faith and belief, and we should have it anywhere possible to educate and to help uplift our children in the process.”

“You were there for me when I ran for mayor,” Adams concluded, to loud applause. “I’m going to be there for you as your mayor.”

In City Council District 44, which includes most of Hasidic Boro Park, 56% of voters picked Republican Curtis Sliwa in the 2021 mayoral election.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to Shtetl’s questions about the speech.

Lauren Hakimi is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, New York Jewish Week, WNYC/Gothamist and more. She graduated from CUNY Hunter College with degrees in history and English literature. Hailing from an Iranian Jewish community on Long Island, she looks forward to shining a light on stories that matter to the Jewish community. Follow her on Twitter @lauren_hakimi.