A Time to Speak Out, A Time to Stay Silent

A s elaborated in these pages, the New York State Education Department published last Wednesday their proposed guidelines for private-school education. Much to the chagrin of parents who choose to send their children to yeshivos and other private schools, the guidelines are largely identical to those struck down in April by a judge on procedural grounds.

The required hours of secular-studies instruction would obligate yeshivos, with a four-day week, to teach an average of more than four hours of secular education per day in seventh and eighth grades, and an average of more than three hours per day in high school.

The guidelines have elicited vociferous objections from members of the Orthodox community, as well as from other private schools in the state, who view this unprecedented interference as an unconstitutional overreach of government authority and a violation of their religious liberties, as well as their rights as dedicated parents seeking to educate their children in the way they see fit.

Wednesday’s publication of the new guidelines commences a public-comment period, which ends September 2. A vote by the Board of Regents on a final set of regulations will likely be held sometime in the fall.

In this issue, we present an exclusive interview with four Torah-observant elected officials whose Brooklyn districts overlap. When asked what role they will be playing in this battle, all four of them committed to work under the guidance of daas Torah on this vital issue. Particularly telling was the response from State Senator Simcha Felder, whose mesirus nefesh in this matter included arriving home from Albany on an Erev Pesach with only minutes to spare — in order to pass a crucial amendment that carries his name.

“I have [spent] and continue to spend a lot of time and energy on this issue. But as a result of my consultations with my daas Torah, I’ve been told that it’s counterproductive for me to discuss these issues. So with the deepest respect to my colleagues, I’m going to follow the advice that I’ve been given,” Senator Felder said.

With his actions, his words and, when appropriate, his silence, Senator Felder and those who emulate him symbolize the classic path of shtadlanus that has served Klal Yisrael with great success for centuries.

At the same time, complementing the behind-the-scenes efforts, we join the yeshivah-advocacy organization PEARLS in urging members of our community to take action by taking part in the public comment process and submitting a letter to the State Education Department and Board of Regents to express opposition to these guidelines.

Most importantly, let us redouble our efforts in tefillah, that Hashem should grant our representatives and activists, as well as our community at large, the wisdom to take the most appropriate steps, and with siyatta diShmaya merit the abolition of all effort to interfere with the purity of our chinuch.