As the time to submit petitions to the New York State Department of Education, in regards to the proposed regulations on secular studies in private schools, a Monsey Rabbi submitted the following letter to the Department of Education, in the hopes of bringing attention to this important issue:
To whom it may concern:
I am seeking to raise awareness of a threat to the lives of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers; The proposed regulation against people of all religions having the choice of education for their children.
I am a yeshiva graduate, and a parent of yeshiva students, that is writing to respectfully, but firmly, register my strong opposition and dismay to the regulations proposed by the State Education Department.
The yeshiva education I received did not conform to the rules that are being dictated by the State Education Department. My school offered a traditional Jewish education with topics spanning many teachings of our sacred Torah and religion. I consider myself fortunate to have received that education. The school did not offer any secular studies.
The yeshiva education I received provided me with the opportunity and foundation for a successful and productive personal and professional life after school. In addition to the teachings being sacred, study of the Talmud taught me ‘critical thinking’, ‘analytics’, and negotiating skills. The study of Chassidic philosophy gave me insight into being able to successfully work side by side with my peers without strife, and to be able to comprehend all kinds of concepts both tangible and abstract. Lastly, the study of Halacha (Jewish law) helped me to form a strong moral compass that emphasizes that we must obey the law, and the importance of treating all of mankind with dignity and respect, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or color.
The proposed regulations require a long list of required classes for the elementary school grades, and require that they be taught for 17.5 hours each week. Although my school spent no time whatsoever on secular studies, my education was excellent. I would not have traded it for one that rigidly conformed to the public school curriculum, as the regulations require. My education afforded me a unique skill set, Jewish identity, knowledge base, and moral understanding that I could not get in any other setting.
Upon conclusion of my Yeshiva education;
-At the age of 20, I served as a rabbinical intern in Berlin
-Upon his request I met with then-US Ambassador Phillip Murphy (now Governor of NJ) to discuss Jewish education
-I successfully negotiated an unprecedented agreement between Enterprise Rent a Car Corporation of Germany, and Chabad of Germany.
-I mastered the NY State GED test (with only 10 days of preparation)
-I received my Smicha (Rabbinic Ordination).
-I completed my BA in religious studies.
-I completed my BS in finance (Touro College).
-I was hired to be a CFO of a small company.
-I started a business.
-I devoted and continue to devote much of my free time counseling low and middle income families on ways for them to achieve financial freedom and success.
I have no doubt that the intensive education and skill set that I received in yeshiva enabled me to accomplish these things.
For the above mentioned reasons I chose yeshiva education for my children.
I want them to receive an education in the tradition and values of my Jewish faith. Judaism is central to who and what I am. I want my children to receive an education that is filled with our rich Jewish traditions, history, culture, ideals and ideas. In other words, I want them to have an education that affords them the ability to excel far beyond that of their public school peers. An education that will teach them to contribute to society and to think independently. These are things that most public school graduates aren’t sufficiently equipped to do.
The increasing divide between the lower and upper economics classes, and the decimation of the middle class, are largely due to the lack of skills that accompany our public education system.
The proposed regulations will undermine the ability of the yeshiva I attended to provide future generations of students with the excellent education I was fortunate to receive.
I pay many thousands of dollars annually for the privilege of sending my child to private school; it is a sacrifice that costs my family dearly. The money I pay is in addition to the funding that I provide to the public school system through my taxes. I pay this small fortune only due to the conviction with which I value my child’s education and future.
As a law abiding citizen, I believe it is part of my civil duty to strongly condemn any attempt by the (local, state or federal) government to infringe upon the freedom of religion that our great nation affords to Jews, Catholics, and Muslims among all other groups or religions that value private education.
I urge you to respect the independence and autonomy of yeshivas, and to acknowledge the success of countless yeshiva graduates such as myself. I reject these proposed regulations!!!
Thank you for your consideration.
Rabbi Chaim Rosenstein