YAFFED and Agudah, usually at odds, find common ground in request for more yeshiva funding

The two organization both seek to expand Mandated Services Aid, government funding meant to reimburse schools for costs related to legal compliance

Photo: iStockPhoto

Feb 12, 2024 4:35 PM


Two Haredi organizations that have been fiercely at odds for years are both advocating for New York State to provide private schools with additional funding to help improve secular education in yeshivas.

The two organizations, YAFFED, which advocates for secular education in Haredi schools, and Agudath Israel, which advocates for Haredi interests and is seeking to preserve the Haredi educational autonomy that has existed for decades, both seek to expand Mandated Services Aid, a form of government funding that is meant to reimburse private schools for costs associated with complying with government requirements, such as taking attendance and administering exams.

The request comes as the New York State Education Department seeks to ensure that nonpublic schools comply with the law that requires them to offer instruction that is “substantially equivalent” or better than that of public schools.

“The time and effort that is required of school administrators to demonstrate legal compliance regarding substantial equivalency should not be minimized,” YAFFED said in written testimony recently submitted to legislators. “Mandated Services Aid for nonpublic schools should be expanded to include the administrative costs associated with” improving secular education.

Agudath Israel asked for the same thing, according to a list of preliminary budget priorities obtained by Shtetl through the Freedom of Information Law. “Equity dictates that the costs substantial equivalency mandates be added to [the] reimbursable mandated services,” Agudah’s list says. “We are working to determine an estimated cost.”

In more recent testimony to state legislators, Yeruchim Silber, Agudah’s Director of New York Government Relations, did not mention expanding mandated services aid to include efforts to improve secular education in Haredi schools.

Agudah has been criticized by some in the Haredi world for being too accommodating to the state’s demands. In a speech in November, Aaron Teitelbaum, grand rabbi of the Aaronite Satmar faction, said “I call on the leaders of other yeshivas not to be persuaded by those activists who have sold their souls to the devil.”

Even New York City Mayor Eric Adams seemed to chide Agudah leaders in January, arguing that they needed to be more active in their opposition to efforts to improve secular education. “Where’s our presence in the streets?” Adams said at a summit Agudah hosted. “Where’s our outrage when you talk about protecting the foundations of your schools as there's a full-frontal assault?”