A broad-based coalition of parents, community leaders and mosdos from Boro Park and Williamsburg announced the founding of a new organization aimed at facilitating advocacy and protection of the rights of families to choose the educational model they deem appropriate for their children. Also under the umbrella of this new entity, Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS) is a working group of principals and educational experts who are working to achieve greater collaboration and standardization of secular studies programs for yeshivos in New York City.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Agudath Israel of America and a member of PEARLS’ executive committee, told Hamodia that such an organization had become a necessity in protecting Torah education.
“We see around the globe an alarming tendency by governments to insist that all non-public schools meet requirements of the public education systems, in many cases imposing obligations that are contrary to religious beliefs. If taken to the extreme, they could try to dictate the amount of time schools spend on secular subjects. These things need to be kept for parents and yeshivos to decide,” he said. “A core part of freedom of religious exercise is the ability for us to make our own educational choices.”
In recent years, anti-religious grassroots movements in Great Britain, Canada and Belgium have garnered government support in efforts to force mosdos to tailor their curriculums to those of public schools. While this trend has not yet met with the same success in America, growing secularism has brought increasing challenges to yeshivos’ autonomy and is seen by advocates in the Orthodox community as a growing threat.
Rabbi Zwiebel said that PEARLS, through a combination of legal protection and public relations efforts hopes to combat this development and protect chinuch “al taharas hakoshesh.”
Yeshiva Principals Association is a newly founded group of general studies principals operating under PEARLS’ auspices. Its goal is to create a forum for principals to share and develop creative ideas aimed at raising the level of engagement among students and parents in the secular studies offered within the yeshivos’ curriculum. They have engaged several outside consultants, led by Richard Altabe, who has over 30 years of experience in educational management.
Rabbi Moshe David Niederman, chairman of the United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg, another of PEARLS’ leading members, called the association’s efforts part of the community’s “solemn responsibility … of educating every student and giving him or her the foundation for success.”
“Our curriculum is constantly evolving to provide the best possible education for our children, while adhering to our culture and beliefs,” he said. Every single school in New York City can be improved. We continually strive to provide students with the tools they need to become productive citizens that contribute to society.”
Updated Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 8:35 pm