Group Sues Over Relaxed Rules For What Is Taught In Yeshivas

July 23, 2018 - 7:36 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- A new lawsuit is claiming an amendment to the New York state budget that relaxes standards for Jewish schools is unconstitutional.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported, Young Advocates for Fair Education filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The group said Orthodox Jewish yeshivas do not teach enough traditional subjects, and wants more secular education in the schools.

Chaim Wigder said there was only an hour or two a day at his yeshiva devoted to math, science, social studies.”

"Nearly no one took it seriously – parents, students, and teachers," Wigder said.

He said there was nothing after age 13.

"For the first few years after graduating from yeshiva, my life was in shambles," Wigder said.

That is why the group says the Felder amendment, named for state Sen. Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) is so troubling.

"Prior to the amendment, all non-public schools were subject to the same statute,” said attorney Eric Huang. “After the amendment these ultra-Orthodox schools are subject to different standards."

Huang said that violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

"The state is actually going out and passing a law that endorses a religious choice,” he said.

The suit names Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other educational officials. A Cuomo spokesman said in a statement the administration is committed to achieving a balance between the needs of the yeshivas and the high educational standards required for every New York student.

Felder's office has not returns calls for comment.

An estimated 115,000 children attend Orthodox Jewish yeshivas in New York state. Many of the roughly 275 schools provide a full secular curriculum but the group estimates about 83 in New York City and 38 elsewhere in the state do not.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)