Jul 14, 2023 11:05 AM
When the New York City Department of Education released the results of its yeshiva investigation on June 30th, the names of 14 failing Haredi yeshivas were withheld. A Shtetl analysis of eight years of investigation records has identified those 14 schools.
The city’s investigation found that 18 Haredi schools were failing to provide an education “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools, as required by New York State law. Only four of the failing schools were named in DOE statements. The remaining 14 schools were not named by the DOE because, according to DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer, the final determination of those schools must be completed at the state level. Styer told Shtetl that the DOE did not notify the 14 schools of the findings either.
The 14 schools fall under a separate category for investigations, due to the so-called “Felder Amendment,” a 2018 law named for state senator Simcha Felder, who is Haredi. Felder proposed the law, which shifts final determinations about certain schools to the state level, instead of the local level.
The 14 Felder amendment schools are all Hasidic and located in Brooklyn. They run the gamut of Hasidic sects, with schools ranging from Satmar, to Belz and Vizhnitz. Shtetl reached out to leaders of all 14 schools for comment, none of whom replied by the time of publication.
To identify the 14 schools, Shtetl reviewed investigation records dating back to July 2015, when the advocacy organization YAFFED, which presses for secular education in Haredi yeshivas, submitted a complaint to the DOE about 39 Haredi yeshivas. In the complaint, YAFFED alleged that the named yeshivas weren’t offering a substantially equivalent education. In response, the DOE launched an investigation that concluded with the June 30th results. (Naftuli Moster, who founded YAFFED in 2012 and led it until 2022, is the founder and CEO of Shtetl.)
YAFFED didn’t initially name the 39 yeshivas publicly, but it published the list in its 2017 report.
In 2018, the list of schools under investigation grew from 39 schools to 40 schools, when the DOE added what they thought was another site of a Lubavitch school named in the complaint.
In 2019, following a scathing report from the city’s Department of Investigation which found that the city was dragging its feet with the investigation for political reasons, the DOE produced an interim report which trimmed the number of schools under investigation to 28 schools. The other 12, the city claimed, were not within the scope of the investigation – including the one they added in 2018. As for the remaining 28 schools, the interim report found two of them substantially equivalent, while the remaining 26 were not.
Two weeks ago, on June 30th, the city produced a final report on the remaining 26 schools, meeting a deadline set by New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa. The report concluded that five more schools were not within the scope of the city’s investigation because they were affiliated with registered high schools and, therefore, met one of several pathways to proving compliance. Of the remaining schools under investigation, two were found to be substantially equivalent, and four were determined not to be substantially equivalent. These 11 schools were named.
The city’s report said that the city recommends that the state find the remaining 14 schools to be non-equivalent. But 15 schools, not 14, remained from YAFFED’s list of 39.
Shtetl shared its findings with the DOE spokesperson and asked him to explain the discrepancy. On Wednesday, Styer told Shtetl by email that the DOE had counted two schools on the list of remaining schools, both affiliated with the Bobov Hasidic sect, as one school.
The DOE did not explain how it came to the conclusion that the two Bobov schools were one entity, as it did in 2019 when it eliminated 12 schools for various other reasons. The two schools are listed at different addresses in the 2015 complaint, and are listed as distinct entities in the state’s database of schools.
Days after the DOE released its latest results, some in the Haredi world urged the city to release full reports about the 14 schools, suggesting that without the details they contain, people may be led to believe that the schools offer worse secular education than they actually do.
“As things stand now, the yeshiva community is getting pilloried while ít cạn’t defend itself because the City has tied its hands by not releasing the letters,” read an unsigned opinion piece published on the Haredi website Yeshiva World News.
“Quite disingenuous for NYC to issue letters recommending 14 yeshivas be deemed not substantially equivalent,” wrote state assembly member Simcha Eichenstein of Boro Park, who is Haredi, on Twitter. He went on to claim, without offering evidence, that “many are indeed equivalent on core subjects, enabling negative media reports without disclosing the full story.”
Yeshiva parent Shaindy Weichman learned in an interview with Shtetl that her son’s former school, Mosdos Chasidei Square in Williamsburg, was among those found to be providing an inadequate education. Weichman said she was “not surprised” to learn that the city had found the school inadequate – she was one of the signatories on the original YAFFED complaint – but wished the investigation had not taken so long. “The investigation started when he was 8; he’s turning 17 next month,” she said. “He lost an entire childhood of opportunities for learning.”
A spokesperson for the New York State Education Department declined to state when it plans to make final determinations about the 14 schools.
The following is a list of the 14 schools:
- Yeshiva Beth Hillel of Krasna, on 1623 44th St.
- Mosdos Chasidei Square, a Skver school on 105 Heyward St.
- Mosdos Chasidei Square, a Skver school on 1373 43rd St.
- Bnei Shimon Yisroel of Sopron, on 18 Warsoff Pl.
- Talmud Torah of Kasho, on 324 Penn St.
- Torah V’Yirah or UTA, a Satmar school on 110 Throop Ave.
- UTA, a Satmar school on 25 Waverly Ave.
- Yeshiva Bnos Ahavas Israel, a Vizhnitz school on 2 Lee Ave.
- Yeshiva Boyan, on 1205 44th St.
- Yeshiva Machzikei Hadas, a Belz school on 1601 42nd St.
- Two sites of Bobover Yeshiva Bnei Zion, one on 4206-10 15th Ave. and one on 1533 48th St.
- Yeshiva Tiferes Bunim, a Munkatch school on 5202 13th Ave.
- Yeshiva Yesode Hatorah, a Vien school on 1350 50th St.
- Yeshiva Beth Hillel of Williamsburg, a Krasna school listed at two addresses in the 2015 complaint, 35 Hewes St. and 35 Williamsburg St. W