letters to the editor

An Open Letter To The Far Rockaway/Five Towns And Surrounding Communities

Dear Friends,

I write to you tonight with a sense of purpose, urgency, and excitement as we draw closer to Achiezer’s annual gala, to be held Sunday, January 6 at The Sands Atlantic Beach.

In truth, this event is more than just a dinner. It is a celebration of unity, collaboration, and selfless giving.

This year has been a difficult one for our community, which has been plagued by various tragedies and challenges.

At the same time, it has been a year of coming together, of working for the betterment of the klal and the yachid, with chesed being performed around the clock, day after day. The support and volunteerism we witnessed across the community this year were unprecedented.

The upcoming event will celebrate the generosity, benevolence, and charitable nature of our wonderful community.

We will be paying tribute to amazing individuals who have redefined selflessness and altruism.

In addition, the dinner will be dedicated in memory of the unforgettable Dr. Richie Friedman, z’l, whose kindheartedness and sensitivity were truly legendary.

Thank you for your participation in the gala and I look forward to greeting you personally.

For more information, visit achiezer.org/dinner or call 516-791-4444, ext. 113.

Gratefully,
Boruch Ber Bender

Yeshivas Must Remain Independent

Dear Editor,

The quality of secular studies offered by New York’s yeshivas and day schools has come under relentless and unfair attack during the last few years and now new guidelines for private schools issued by the State Education Department are creating unprecedented confusion and concern on the part of educators, parents, and community leaders.

In late November, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia took the unprecedented step of issuing new, onerous guidelines that require a significant number of secular courses to be taught, give the school district control over teachers’ accreditations, and mandate inspections from public school officials. If not abided by, the guidelines threaten the loss of student-based funding and school transportation, and even eventual school closure.

While we can all agree that every child deserves a sound basic education, these new guidelines step far beyond that. They are intrusive, and subvert a private school’s right to control their own curriculum and the culture in their schools. In the Jewish community, parents take on the often hefty burden of paying yeshiva tuition because we want to ensure that we have some semblance of control over the environment in which our children are spending most of their days. We do our due diligence in ensuring that our children are receiving a good education that will prepare them for a successful future. Most importantly, it is our absolute right as parents to choose where we send our children for school.

These new guidelines are not just affecting yeshivas and Jewish day schools. Muslim and Catholic leaders have also joined in condemning them, with the New York State Catholic Conference going so far as to direct all of the state’s Catholic schools to not participate in “any review carried out by local public school officials.”

The New York Court of Appeals determined in 1948 that “private schools have a constitutional right to exist, and parents have a constitutional right to send their children to such schools.” Depriving such schools of the right to shape their curricula in line with their religious and cultural values would essentially remove the “private” in “private schools.”

It is the tradition of the Jewish people, since the days when Yaakov Avinu sent his son Yehuda ahead to Egypt to establish a yeshiva, that we educate our children according to our teachings as a method of securing our nation’s endurance. Maintaining the independence of our schools is absolutely critical, and allowing the State to overstep their bounds and infringe upon our religious institutions sets a dangerous precedent.

Today, they want to control what we teach in our yeshivas. If we don’t fight back, what will tomorrow bring?

Councilman Chaim Deutsch
Chairman of the NYC Council’s Jewish Caucus

Are We Politically Correct?

Dear Editor,

The NYS Department of Education is attempting to make undesirable changes to the yeshiva education of our children. Some claim to have “concern” for our children not having a good enough education and are determined to “help” us. This comes together with threats to cut all funding to yeshivas and to take disciplinary action against parents who do not comply with their demands. The wise people of the book are again under assault. What should our response be?

Firstly, it is beautiful to see the unity that is happening these days among our people. Everybody realizes that our differences are merely external wrappings, while in essence we are all one. We have one G-d and one Torah that unites us, our guide in life.

It seems like history repeats itself and we have been in the same situation many times. I would like to draw an analogy to a story from the Chumash.

Yosef made an ingenious plan to test his brothers. He hid his silver cup in Binyomin’s bag and had it “found” there. The brothers came back and Yehuda submitted everyone to be slaves for the Egyptian king. “What can we say…justify ourselves, G-d found our iniquity, we are [all] slaves…” Yosef replied that he wanted only the one “thief” to be his slave while the rest could go back home.

Here was where everything changed. Joke’s over, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Yehuda approached the world superpower’s leader without permission with tremendous chutzpah and strength. “We are at fault” attitude turned instantly into “you made it up.” He even threatened to wage war against the entire Egypt, and will “start with you and finish with Pharaoh”!

What happened all of a sudden? All Yosef did was to say he was giving them a discount. You’re offering me eleven slaves, take back ten! Why not do things a little calmer? Where is your decency?

To have all the brothers together as slaves in Egypt would be paying with their bodies; to have one Jewish boy alone in Egypt, the most corrupt of all, is endangering his soul.

When one tries to endanger the spiritual upbringing of even one Jewish child, no bars are held, even if it meant putting his very life on the line. No one, not even the most powerful ruler, can as much touch to the smallest measure the spiritual upbringing of even one Jewish child. This is something we live for, and put down our lives for.

Such self-sacrifice from Yehuda’s part was victorious. Yosef could no longer restrain himself and he revealed himself to his brothers.

Fast forward several thousand years …

At a time when outside forces are dangerously attempting to dim our dedication to Toras Chaim, the Torah of Life, let us continue to stand with one voice. “As they would afflict them so would they multiply” (Shmos 1, 12) it is time for us to pick up our heads much higher in pride. Our Torah is the eternal wisdom, with an unbroken chain right back from Mount Sinai, incomparably greater than what any other nation has. Our educational system is far more successful in all aspects, and they know that! It is time for us to announce with greater pride: “Our children are learning G-d’s Torah and will continue to do so.”

Let us use the opportunity to add in our teaching/learning of Torah, not G-d forbid to subtract.

The only ones who can have power over a Jew is they themselves. When we will put our sights up high and stand firm we are guaranteed victory.

A Jewish Brooklyn resident

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