A Letter from Agudas Yisrael: The Threat to Our Yeshivos

Dear friends,

It is not often that Agudas Yisroel sends emails out like this one. But it is also not often that Gedolei Yisroel write op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. Our yeshivos face mortal danger, and we need your help.

The New York State Education Department has recently released guidance detailing how all yeshivos and nonpublic schools must be “substantially equivalent” to public schools.

Many appear to think that the guidance’s impact is limited to a small subset of the yeshiva community. Others think that the guidance will be interpreted in a way that will not be as harmful to our communities as it may initially seem.

In fact, the guidance has the potential to make virtually every Jewish school in New York State illegal. See Appendix A in the guidelines (page 11), which requires, for example, over 35 hours per week of secular instruction for grades 5-8. This is more hours of instruction than offered in public schools. The bottom line is that compliance with the strict letter of the guidance would wreak havoc on the overwhelming majority of our elementary schools, yeshivos, and Bais Yaakovs across New York State.

Agudas Yisroel believes that parents have the constitutional right to choose a nonpublic school that focuses on religious education, as our yeshivos all do. The new current guidance, as it stands, is governmental overreach, and mortally imperils our ability to run a yeshiva al pi Torah.

In consultation with Gedolai Yisroel, Agudas Yisroel is pursuing legal and advocacy approaches to stem the tide of overzealous governmental oversight into our chinuch.

But you can help too: This is a Klal Yisroel issue, which needs the klal’s involvement.

Here is how you can help this effort at this point:

  • In recognition of the seriousness of this challenge, Gedolei Yisroel are asking all shuls to be מרבה בתפלה at Minchah, this Tuesday, עשרה בטבת. May the zechus of the תפילת רבים help in averting this צרה. (See the Kol Korei from the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah below.)
  • A New York Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Churba, has started an online petition drive to protest the new state guidelines. We encourage you to sign on to the petition, which can be accessed by going to https://www.change.org/p/500-000-students-vs-state-education-department or to https://tinyurl.com/yeshivos. (Please note that any money donated through that site is not going to Agudas Yisroel, but to that website.)
  • We invite any concerned individual to write a respectful but firm letter to SEReviews@nysed.gov.
  • As this situation develops, we may come to you with additional requests for things you can do to help – we will continue to keep you informed.
  • If you have any questions, please reach out to us at saveourschools@agudathisrael.org.

May the combined efforts of the klal bring about a yeshuah for this צרת רבים.