Members of the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities protest in Albany...

Members of the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities protest in Albany before a Board of Regents meeting on teaching requirements for private schools. Credit: AP/Will Waldron

Private schools must teach core subjects

I taught mathematics in a Jewish day school as well as a public high school for 33 years. The editorial "A good education for every child" [Opinion, Sept. 14] says that "many who stay in their communities ... have few marketable skills, and their widespread dependence on public assistance is shocking ... many who leave their religious communities are helpless in the secular world. They are often unfit for gainful employment." And yet, "the schools get millions of taxpayer dollars."

I find this embarrassing, wasteful, abhorrent and disgraceful. Surely they have the right to live their style of life, but they should be able to support their own society. And the politicians who court their votes should be responsible to the children. Their schools should be held to the same standards, and instruction should be in English. Yes, there are many fine examples of educational institutions -- for example, Yeshiva University, Stern College for Women -- but teaching core subjects has to start in the elementary grades.

Evelyn Estrine, Baldwin

I worked in admissions at a small two-year not-for-profit private college in Queens. Not only was the level of academic competence from New York City high school applicants lacking, but many applicants from yeshivas was often dismal. Their competency in English and basic mathematics was lacking, even though they had diplomas certified by New York State standards. Several applicants admitted they weren’t taught much about academics, instead concentrating on Yiddish and rabbinical studies. I felt bad for these young men but was unable to do much to help.

Many of these schools receive aid from taxpayer dollars for inferior student preparation for daily life.

Arthur Bernstein, Massapequa Park

The article regarding the need for private schools to adopt basic academic standards was fair and reasonable ["Private school standards OKd," News, Sept. 13]. Some in print media, though, seemingly have attacked some Jewish institutions of education with a broad brush. Those relatively few Jewish schools that do not comply with basic secular educational standards are doing a disservice to their students and to society at large. The issue is complex. Plenty of yeshivas combine rigorous secular studies and Jewish studies. For example, Yeshiva University is a superb institution of higher learning. As a physician, I can state with certainty that Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which is a part of Yeshiva University, is a top-notch medical school. The problems clearly need to be addressed, but let's fix what needs to be fixed without condemning the whole.

Dr. Joel Reiter, Woodbury

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