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East Ramapo Cuts Fostering Anti-Semitism
Tue, 06/24/2014 - 20:00

Rabbi Avi Shafran’s complaint about the state aid formula for public schools is unquestionably valid, (“Social Injustice and the Ramapo School Board,” online Opinion, May 2), but it has little to do with the disaster that the East Ramapo School District has become, a fact that in itself is undoubtedly fostering anti-Semitism in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

When my father was board president in the 1960s, the district was one of the largest and best in the state. There were small enclaves like Monsey, New Square and the “Hill” in Spring Valley that did not prioritize public education, but most residents were middle class Jews and Catholics who sent their kids to public school. Many of my classmates went to prestigious colleges and became respected professionals in their fields.

I remember my father’s constant complaint that the district was being drastically shortchanged in aid, resulting in school taxes that were too high. But the population was generally willing to pay the price. This was true even though some religious leaders, including Reform Jews, fought tax increases.

The only major change is that now one-third of the district’s children go to public school while the rest go to yeshivas. As the haredi population in the district increased, many middle class families moved, understanding that someone who struggles to pay for parochial school would not support public education the way it needs to be supported.

This trend continues. Recently, when my friend was sitting shiva for his mother, he was amazed by the number of haredim and others peering into the windows, clearly interested in buying the home.

The bottom line for East Ramapo is what my father said a couple of years ago, not long before his death: “This is now the worst school district in the state.”

The lessons have not been lost on nearby residents. There is a palpable fear that the same thing could happen in their communities. It is not impossible that some of the problems [of anti-Semitism] in Monroe and Pine Bush might be explained in part by this fear. Could anyone doubt that fear of being displaced or economically injured gives rise to anti-Semitism? With so many irrational reasons to be anti-Semitic throughout history, why does there have to be one that is arguably rational? This is what worries me. I would urge various religious leaders to think about this carefully when considering expanding or moving to a new community.

Rye Brook, N.Y.


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As a Jewish woman, I am truly distressed by the behavior and actions of the Orthodox Jewish community in Ramapo, which show an utter disregard for it's neighbors and for the non-Jewish children who are struggling in public schools. Where is the spirit of the Torah -- to shine a light to the world? The Orthodox school
board members are showing contempt for others, lack of care, and this will have dire consequences not only for the children in public schools and their families, but also for all Jews, in Ramapo and elsewhere, as we will be blamed for the shameful acts of fellow-Jews. It's shameful behavior.

The Jewish people are supposed to be a light to the world. We are supposed to leave the world a better place. We are supposed to love our neighbors and the less fortunate. From what I have read, the
Jewish Orthodox community in Ramapo, is doing a terrible disservice not only to the non-Jewish communities, but to the all Jewish people -- as let's face it, our whole Jewish community outside of Ramapo, ends up getting blamed and bearing the consequences for their other Jews' insensitivity, to say the least. We do not live in a world by ourselves and cannot pretend to. Every human face is a face of
G-d's creation. The Jewish Orthodox community's behavior is very hurtful. And Jews who care about
the hurtful consequences should express their opposition to ignoring the needs of their neighbors and voice support for the majority of public school children who are losing out and suffering. It is shameful for Jews not to care.


The majority rules. If the majority of the homeowners send their kids to yeshivot. Why should they agree to high property taxes to a school that they do not send their kids to? Why should they feel any obligation to the public school children? Do yuppies feel any obligation to ultra-orthodox Jews? Of course not.

I sent my girls to private school but still had to pay school taxes. Whether the child is in private school or not the private schools still use the local districts resources They get Busing,Special Ed and resources these cost the district money. So yes since they are the ones insisting on private education for there children it should not be at the expense of the public school children and the tax payers of that district.

"Why should they agree to high property taxes to a school that they do not send their kids to? Why should they feel any obligation to the public school children? Do yuppies feel any obligation to ultra-orthodox Jews? Of course not."

Are you serious dude. While Heller's thoughts, as expressed in his letter to the editor, leave much to be desired, your thoughts are entirely outrageous. You need to sit down and carefully consider how damn well this country has treated the Jewish people and the hakaros hatov that you and I owe in return. Public education has a long and proud history in this country. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE is obligated to support it, whether you take advantage of public education or not. Buddy, I don't care whether you are chassidic, yeshivish or YUish. The hard pressed American taxpayer shouldn't be required to offer any financial assistance towards educating our children at Satmar yeshivas, Yeshiva Chaim Berlin or SAR. Anyone who chooses to send their children to those yeshivas ought to figure out how they intend to fund it on their own.

Only courses that are consistent with the sheva mitzvos bnai Noach, the seven Noachide laws should be approved, by a Jewish board or a non Jewish board of education.
They should check to see what they are teaching the children, they are responsible.

God bless you Mr. Heller. that I know was not an easy letter to write and it took a real man to have the courage to call it like it is.

Could anyone doubt that fear of being displaced or economically injured gives rise to anti-Semitism?

This is an inane observation, though I believe the charedi community needs to display a greater economic commitment to public education

I would urge various religious leaders to think about this carefully when considering expanding or moving to a new community.

So what should charedim do when they've exhausted all available living space in their community?

There is something wrong with this whole debate about the school system in east ramapo, I will admit that i'm not well versed in this matter but as a new home owner in the district looking at my tax bill for just 1200 sq. ft of living space is outrageous,
Now, doing some research we are paying 3 times the US average per child in the district and the education to say the least is not the best in the country, with all the money being spend the people responsible here need to hire some professionals to ensure that money is being spend responsibly, it is after all public money.
I just wish that we can all start focusing on the goal of having proper education available to all funded by the people instead of constantly bickering that no one seems to benefit.

Exactly right. The reason your tax bill is so high is not because of who sits on the board of education. Its because (1) NY law requires the school district to pay for public school students, and also to pay for private school students' books, transportation, special education, school nurses, school psychologists, and more; (2) East Ramapo has about 9,000 public school students - which isn't unusual, but more than 20,000 private school students - which is totally unheard of; (3) even though the school district has to pay for 20,000 private school students' services, it doesn't get any more money from the State than a school district with ZERO private school students.

That's the tragic, unfair math. It means you have to pay more in taxes, and the public education still sucks anyway. There are just two possible solutions: (1) Repeal the laws requiring public school districts to pay for private school services; or (2) Provide the school district with enough money to pay for all the services its required to provide by law. To be honest, I don't care which of the two gets done. But it is long past time to pick one or the other. The status quo is not sustainable.

How do you come up with 3 times the US average. The budget I believe was 210 million with an estimated total of 30k students in ER, thats 7k per student, if you want to take out the private school students, ((30 million for busing + 40 mil special ed ) * .70 percentage of private school students + 5 million legal fees benefiting private students=54 million) leaving 156 million for an estimated 10k public school students or 15,600 per student which is + or - a couple of thousand dollars compared to other districts in Rockland and Westchester.

It isn't that the people of towns like Monroe or Pine Bush are anti-semites. Most often, it's that the Hasidic population enters a community and becomes indifferent to "goyim" laws. One look at Kiryas Joel's record explains itself: residences that disappear from the tax rolls only to become illegal yeshivas or private temples; a long history of DEC violations that remain unresolved; a 93% Medicaid enrollment rate; utter disregard for their neighbors in the form of midnight celebrations that are heard for miles. None of these are "religious" issues except when their apologists have no counter-argument and throw forward a claim of anti-semitism when laws to which all must adhere are being broken without justice being applied.

If you wonder why the Monroe neighbors aren't crazy about an expansion of that community, look at the example they've set thus far and ask yourself if you'd appreciate that sort of neighbor encroaching on you and imposing their will against your own rights.

I lived in Monsey in the 1960's. The school district was overrated then and I had constant battles for them to properly educate my child. I would have lived there longer, but the haredim were buying up homes and then registering them as shuls to get them off the tax rolls. I know of at least 10 such illegal claims, the town did nothing and I finally moved as taxes kept going up

You say that Haredi people moving into town causes anti-Semitism, because they oppose high public school taxes. You think that's bad, so Haredi people shouldn't move into town. But... where should they live? They have to live somewhere. Don't Americans have the right to live anywhere they want, no matter what their race, religion, or their politics? Would you think it is legitimate to say that African American people moving into a new neighborhood "rationally" causes racism? How about Latino immigrants? Would an influx of Latino immigrants be a "rational" reason for people to become racist? That may well be what occurs, but it's not OK. People should be denounced for harboring such views.

Listen: I get it. The schools aren't what they were in the 60's. But that was more than 40 years ago. Rockland County doesn't look anything like it looked in the 60s. It doesn't even look anything like it looked in the 90s. Who even knows what Rockland will look like 10 years from now? Demographic change is hard. The new population doesn't feel the same way about the public schools that the old population did. But I have some news for you. There is absolutely nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it. So you need to find a way to make peace with the new reality. People may react to this newest migration into Rockland from NYC by becoming "anti-semitic." But don't pretend that is any different from becoming "racist" when Haitians moved to Rockland County in the 80s and 90s. Don't pretend that becoming "anti-semitic" is somehow more acceptable than becoming "racist" when Latinos began to move to Rockland County in the 00s. And don't pretend that you can cloak anti-semitism with an air of respectability just by couching it in terms of concern for the quality of the public schools. It fools no one.

Oh ,there is something that can be done about it: its called enforcing the law, starting with one that has been on the books for 40 years that mandates that ALL private schools teach a curricula equivalent to the Public Schools and that means English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Ignorance is not an option, especially when you claim public education dollars. Christian schools have no problem teaching religious education and secular subjects. It is a well established fact that the Ultra-Orthodox schools prepare their students with 0 secular education, making them dependent on Social Service and maintaining the stranglehold of the Leaders (or course you have to tow the line, imaging the fear the threat of being thrown out in the real world with a third grade education would inspire).

You are a private school (Hasiddic, Catholic, Muslim ) and want public dollars for support? Fine. Sit the common core and other standard test and show that your students are being educated to the same standards as the local public school students, otherwise close the school and send them to one that is actually performing education.

I'm curious what you mean by "well established." I'm sure that point is "well established" in the anti-Haredi activist fever-swamp/echo chamber. The real world may surprise you. Considering that the Haredi are, you know, human beings, with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, I would guess that they are smarter and more savvy than you think. They managed to figure out how to take over the school board after all. Anyways, you have an interesting theory. Suppose you're right - do you really think Rockland can wait 10, 20, 30 years for that to play out? How certain are you that just because a person learns high school social studies, they will be willing to throw away their deeply held religious beliefs, family relationships, and hundreds of years of culture? I'm skeptical. These folks' culture survived the Nazis. I'd be surprised if Common Core was enough to do the trick.

When is it time to accept that the demographic forces at work are inevitable? People will just have to learn to live with them, and work with them, as best they are able. Working against them will only result in endless conflict, to no useful purpose.

The difference between the "Americans" you mention and the African American & Latino American is that your "Americans" refuse to play by the rules and have no desire to assimilate with anyone not of their ilk. African Americans & Latinos, pay taxes, many have fought and died in the service of their country. How many of these parasites can say the same? This culture of Fraudsters and Pedophiles will be the ruination of this state.

"Parasites," "Fraudsters," and "Pedophiles" will be the "ruination of this state."

Thank you. Nothing could possibly have demonstrated my point any better. This has nothing to do with schools. Mr. Heller - are you following this? How about you "Pearl of Wisdom?" Is this still what you would call "rational" Antisemitism?

Hey anonymous, you can live where ever you want but I also have the right not to live next to a religious theocracy. I have no intention of dressing in long black clothes and covering my hair. I wear shorts and flip flops. Don't come to Orange co and try to turn it into Brooklyn . Also expect to follow laws like everyone else. Crying discrimination so you can do what you please doesn't fly here. Also would you let your kids play with mine? NO!!! If you think I want neighbors like you, you are on glue. You care for only yourselves and no one else.

Thank you for demonstrating my point. It is true, you have the "right not to live next to a religious theocracy." Just like the Haredi community, you also can move wherever you want if you don't like your new neighbors so much. You also seem to have some funny ideas about what the Haredi community is like. I expect you've never actually met someone who was Haredi. I'm not Haredi either, but I don't think they care one bit about your wardrobe. Their peculiar rules are only for their own communities. They are not at all interested in trying to force others to adopt their ways. In fact, they generally want as little to do with people outside their community as possible. In my opinion, you should be so lucky for Orange Co. to be like Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a really nice place, you should visit it sometime. You'd be amazed to find that Hasids live in one neighborhood, hipsters live in the neighborhood next door, yuppies basically live everywhere now, African Americans live just on the other side of the street from the Hasids, and all around there are Polish Catholics, Russian Orthodox, and Latino immigrants. They probably don't like each other very much, and their kids may not play together very often. But they still manage to live in close proximity to each other, and it works out OK. Maybe that's because they aren't trying to cling to a 1960's version of America (that never really existed anyway). But you're right about another thing. I probably wouldn't let my kids play with your kids. Not because of religion though. You just don't seem like a very nice person.

Good article Mr. Heller; however, because a group of people chooses to send their children to private schools does not excuse them from property taxes to support public education. East Ramapo residents need to pay more taxes for the public school just as my parents did while sending us all to Catholic school and as most people who choose to send their children to private schools in other districts do.

You are correct with that, that everyone is responsible to pay their share of tax for schooling, the question though is that private schools need to abide by government rules as to minimum education needed to provide, so it would only be right that they get that part funded the same as public school (which in east ramapo it would cover the cost of complete education for kids in private school, since the cost per pupil is 3 times the US average)
And why can the public school spend that much of public money when it is not needed (just look at other districts, that has allot less of local tax income then here)

"so it would only be right that they get that part funded the same as public school "

So if a non-religious private school teaches a solely secular curriculum in accordance with State educational standards, is that school also entitled to have the State fund its educational programs that comply with State standards (in this hypothetical, that would be 100% of the private school's curriculum)? No, obviously not. Just because a Yeshiva or Catholic school or some New-Age spiritualist school decides to spend its resources providing a curriculum that doesn't meet State educational standards does not entitle that school to demand public funding for fulfilling their legal obligation to teach required materials. If you want to spend your time and money studying religious and culturally intensive subjects, then that's your business. But if you can't meet educational achievement standards, then perhaps its time you rethink how you're using your resources, instead of admonishing the public sector to provide additional resources so as not to disrupt your religious preoccupations. These are the terms of the social contract, as they apply to everyone else. Likewise, compliance with taxation is not contingent on whether or not your use the public goods that are financed via tax revenue. If I build a library in my house, I don't get to opt-out of paying taxes that fund public libraries. Owners and residents of apartment complexes with pools and playgrounds can't refuse to pay taxes that fund parks and pools. And they don't get a share of tax revenues to subsidizes their private play grounds and pools. There is a potentially infinite list of objections anyone can have to the way tax revenue is legally appropriated, yet should someone refuse to pay for whatever reason, they will likely find themselves at the mercy of the Tax Court.

"The only major change is that now one-third of the district’s children go to public school while the rest go to yeshivas. As the haredi population in the district increased, many middle class families moved, understanding that someone who struggles to pay for parochial school would not support public education the way it needs to be supported."

And your remedy being...
1) Don't allow Hareidim to move into any neighborhood they want to. Place "No Hareidim" signs on house for sale signs?
2) Hareidim should stop being Hareidim?
3) Hareidim should be forced to send their kids to public school and not yeshiva?

The problem with the ER school district is what I call the perfect storm, first there are over 1200 tax exempt properties in just Monsey and Spring Valley alone, second, although school taxes per household are considered high, taxes per student per household is not, the private school household has a lot students as well as the public household where there are many homes with more than 1 family living in it, so for example, if a household is paying 6k in taxes and there are 5 students going to school, thats only 1200 dollars per kid. ER budgets 1000 per kid just for busing.

Scratching my head... Its not the State formula, but it's that "the haredi population in the district increased" and black hats coming to get your home (a la Bloombeg) As you know when a black hatter buys a home his taxes somehow fly away to neverland. Seems like Heller has an age old problem, there is just many of us black hatters; but does Heller have any (final) solutions to that vexing issue?

First, this has not been true for the past 10 years or more when you cannot get tax exempt statues in east ramapo even in situations that you can get in the whole country. Secondly, the amount increase of new houses and taxes in the area in the past 10 years has tenfold with a majority opting for private schooling (that should get the same share in funding for secular education- it is after all funded by local homeowners equally)

Perfectly stated. The fear is real and the threat is true.