I don’t know anything about Hasidics other than what I’ve read— or watched on shows like Shtisel and Unorthodox. “Insular” doesn’t come close to describing their hostility and disrespect towards non-Hasids. There are around half a million of them in the U.S., probably— by choice— the least assimilated group in America. The biggest American Hasidic communities are in Brooklyn (Williamsburg, Borough Park, Midwood...); Rockland County (Monsey); Kew Gardens and Far Rockaway in Queens; the Five Towns in Nassau County; New Jersey (Lakewood and Passaic); Baltimore; and L.A.’s Fairfax district, Pico-Rivera and Hancock Park. All of these neighborhoods are in tolerant blue districts that voted overwhelmingly for Biden-- except the blocks the Hasidics live on. In Far Rockaway, Queens, for example, the Rockaway Peninsula was overwhelmingly pro-Biden, but these three electoral districts of the 23rd Assembly District— Trump bastions— are where the Hasidics live (right on the border with Lawrence in Nassau County, another Hasidic stronghold that was all in for fascism 2 years ago). Far Rockaway's Hasidic neighborhood:
ED-27-- Biden- 3.95% (20 votes vs 528 for Trump)
ED-28-- Biden- 15.91% (64 votes vs 366 for Trump)
ED-39-- Biden- 18.8% (100 votes vs 438 for Trump)
Much of Williamsburg-- particularly the part the Hasidics live in-- is part of the 50th Assembly District. The 50th-- which also includes Greenpoint-- is one of Brooklyn's most progressive... and in a movement kind of way. Bernie beat Hillary in the 2016 primary here, even though she won Brooklyn as a whole. And in 2020 the district kicked out a corrupt old status quo Assemblyman, Joseph Lentol, an unwavering servant for the Satmar Hasidic sect power-broker, Rabbi David Niederman, and replaced him with progressive reformer Emily Gallagher. Now look at this map:
The blue election districts in the map above are the ones Biden won. The red ones are where the Hasidics live-- and the only ones to have backed Trump. The Assembly district has 102 election districts. Only 24 voted Trump-- the Hasidic neighborhood-- like this half dozen:
ED-70-- Biden- 4.86% (11 votes vs 233 for Trump)
ED-71-- Biden- 0.75% (1 vote vs 133 for Trump)
ED-73-- Biden- 3.81% (14 votes vs 349 for Trump)
ED-74-- Biden- 2.75% (12 votes vs 421 for Trump)
ED-77-- Biden- 6.46% (23 votes vs 358 for Trump)
ED-82-- Biden- 9.17% (23 votes vs 294 for Trump)
It was the same everywhere I looked; you could trace Trump's wins in otherwise Democratic counties by finding their Hasidic neighborhoods. I mean just one vote against 133 for Trump in the 71st election district of a powerfully blue Assembly District that had just kicked out the corrupt Democratic incumbent and replaced him with someone more like AOC! That's amazing.
And they’re ignorant morons. A few weeks after the 2020 election, Jed Kolko and Toni Monkovic wrote a revealing piece in the NY Times, The Places That Had the Biggest Swings Toward and Against Trump. The Milwaukee, Atlanta and Phoenix metro areas swung so significantly against Trump, that Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona flipped from red to blue. There were no equal but opposite examples of those kinds of consequential swings in favor of Trump that flipped a single state from blue to red. New York was odd, while the Buffalo and Albany areas swung away from Trump, Hasidic bloc-voting in Brooklyn brought that deep, deep blue borough more in Trump's direction-- but not enough to change a thing.
Although normal Jews overwhelmingly opposed Trump-- over 70% of Jews voted for Biden-- 80% of Orthodox Jews were on the Trump bandwagon. And in the primitive, tribal, self-imposed Haredi ghettos it was as much as 95%. Above I referred to the Hasidics as “ignorant morons.” Let’s talk about that. This afternoon, The NY Times published a piece, In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money, by Eliza Shapiro and Brian Rosenthal. The Hasids send their kids to private schools which they operate “on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring” even though the taxpayers have subsidized the schools with over a billion dollars in the last 4 years.
In 2019, one school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed. Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different.” They are failing by design.
The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition— and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.
The results, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.
Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.
The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.
Warned about the problems over the years, city and state officials have avoided taking action, bowing to the influence of Hasidic leaders who push their followers to vote as a bloc and have made safeguarding the schools their top political priority.
“I don’t know how to put into words how frustrating it is,” said Moshy Klein, who recently left the community after realizing it had not taught him basic grammar, let alone the skills needed to find a decent job. “I thought, ‘It’s crazy that I’m literally not learning anything. It’s crazy that I’m 20 years old, I don’t know any higher order math, never learned any science.’”
… The [50,000] students in the boys’ schools are not simply falling behind. They are suffering from levels of educational deprivation not seen anywhere else in New York, The Times found. Only nine schools in the state had less than 1 percent of students testing at grade level in 2019, the last year for which full data was available. All of them were Hasidic boys’ schools.
Girls receive more secular education because they study fewer religious texts. But they, too, are struggling: About 80 percent of the girls who took standardized tests last year failed.
The boys’ schools cram in secular studies only after a full day of religious lessons. Most offer reading and math just four days a week, often for 90 minutes a day, and only for children between the ages of 8 and 12. Some discourage further secular study at home. “No English books whatsoever,” one school’s rule book warns.
Often, English teachers cannot speak the language fluently themselves. Many earn as little as $15 an hour. Some have been hired off Craigslist or ads on lamp posts.
During religious study, teachers in many of tech boys’ schools have regularly smacked, slapped and kicked their students, records and interviews show, creating an environment of fear that makes learning difficult. At some schools, boys have called 911 to report being beaten.
Still, Hasidic leaders have opened 50 new boys’ schools in the past decade, and they have received increasing amounts of government money, records show. One city child care program for low-income families sent nearly a third of its total funding to Hasidic neighborhoods last year.
…There are about 200,000 Basic Jews in New York, making up roughly 10 percent of the state’s Jewish population. They are distinct from modern Orthodox Jews and others who strictly follow religious law but also integrate their lives with contemporary society. Hasidim wear the same modest dress as their ancestors did, and most live in largely insular enclaves devoted to preserving centuries-old traditions.
For many Hasidic people, their schools are succeeding — just not according to the standards set by the outside world. In a community that places religion at the center of daily life, secular education is often viewed as unnecessary, or even distracting.
…In other parts of the world with large Hasidic populations, including in Britain, Australia and Israel, officials have moved to crack down on the lack of secular education in Hasidic schools. But that has not happened in New York, despite a state law requiring private schools to offer an education comparable to the one provided in public schools.
Bill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York City, began an investigation into the schools after receiving complaints in 2015, but his administration put it on hold when the pandemic hit. Mayor Eric Adams has not intervened in the schools— and has touted close ties to Hasidic leaders. In Albany, Gov. Kathy Hochul has taken a similarly hands-off approach, as did her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.
State education officials have spent years drafting new regulations for enforcing the law but have watered them down amid opposition from the Hasidic community. A state education board is scheduled to vote on the new set of rules this week.
…Almost all of New York’s Hasidic Jews live in a few Brooklyn neighborhoods and a handful of towns in Rockland and Orange Counties. In those areas, storefronts are emblazoned with Yiddish, roads are packed with yellow school buses and sidewalks bustle with families. People distinguish themselves through volunteering, and the community looks out for its own, sharing meals to ensure no one goes hungry.
Hasidic people follow strict rules aimed at recreating a way of life that was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust.
Their leaders, the grand rabbis, wield wield significant power, and breaking the rules they set can carry serious consequences. That point was underscored by the more than 50 current Hasidic community members who spoke to The Times only on condition of anonymity, for fear of being exiled and barred from seeing family and friends.
Since arriving in Brooklyn in the 1940s, Hasidic rabbis have relied on religious schools to propel the community’s growth and maintain its continuity. Amid growing antisemitic violence, the Hasidim have been particularly vulnerable to attacks and harassment.
… As the internet has become more widely available, many schools have grown more restrictive, even barring students whose parents are caught with smartphones. At least one U.T.A. campus has established a “committee of responsible parents” to enforce rules; some other schools now prohibit students from speaking English at home.
…Hasidic yeshivas, like all private schools in New York, are not required to administer state standardized tests in reading and math, and most do not.
But some Hasidic schools give the exams as a condition of receiving public funding. In 2019, when nearly half of all New York students passed the tests, 99 percent of the thousands of Hasidic boys who took the exams failed, a Times analysis found.
The poor performance could not be easily explained by the community’s poverty or language barriers.
Statewide, the public schools that served only low-income students all scored exponentially higher than the boys’ yeshivas did, the analysis found. The same was true for schools that overwhelmingly enrolled non-native English speakers.
In the schools that do not administer tests, it has been difficult to measure how much the students are learning. But hundreds of interviews and a review of student work show that those students are struggling, too.
Nearly three dozen current and former teachers across the state’s Hasidic yeshivas said most of the thousands of boys who passed through their classrooms over the years left school without learning to speak English fluently, let alone read or write at grade level.
Another former teacher provided hundreds of pages of work sheets from the past five years that showed that 12-year-olds— in their last year of English instruction— could not spell words like “cold” and “America.” One boy, in response to a prompt about what he liked, wrote: “To cee wen somone pente.”
…Some teachers at Hasidic schools said they had become convinced that their yeshivas discouraged learning English because it was seen as a dangerous bridge to the outside world.
Teachers said they have encountered obstacles for many years.
Greig Roselli was a graduate student in philosophy with no teaching experience when a U.T.A. in Williamsburg hired him off Craigslist in 2010. On his first day, he had planned to test his students’ skill levels. But when he arrived at the yeshiva, in a large Gothic-style former public school building, all his students were hiding in a closet.
Herding the boys to their seats, he said, he started reading from his lesson plan, but the students interrupted him, giggling and shrieking. One scowled and said: “Go home, teacher.”
Soon, Roselli, who knew no Yiddish, realized he had signed up for an impossible task: teaching rambunctious 11- and 12-year-olds who barely spoke his language and were not eager to learn it. He quit after a year.
More than a decade later, the secular education in many Hasidic schools has grown worse, according to dozens of recent students, parents and teachers.
Some Hasidic boys’ yeshivas do not offer any nonreligious classes at all. Others make attending the classes optional. Yeshivas that provide secular education now mostly hire only Hasidic men as teachers, regardless of whether they know English.
…Despite the failings of Hasidic boys’ schools, the government has continued sending them a steady stream of funding.
Tax dollars are not supposed to go toward religious education. But public agencies pay private schools to comply with government mandates and manage social services. Hasidic boys’ yeshivas, like other private schools, access dozens of such programs, collecting money that subsidizes their theological curriculum.
Officials have sent money to Hasidic schools for decades but have never provided a full public accounting. To create one, The Times identified dozens of federal, state and local programs and analyzed how much they have given to yeshivas, looking most closely at the last year before the pandemic.
The analysis showed that New York’s Hasidic boys’ schools received more than $375 million from the government in that period.
Hasidic boys’ yeshivas receive far less per pupil than public schools, and they charge tuition. But they appear to get more government funding on average than other private schools in the state, including other religious schools, the analysis found. And the money is flowing as New York City is cutting public school budgets.
Some government programs provide a disproportionate amount of aid to Hasidic schools, The Times found. The city voucher program that helps low-income families pay for child care now sends nearly a third of its total assistance to Hasidic neighborhoods, even while tens of thousands of people have languished on waiting lists. The program provides more than $50 million a year to Hasidic boys’ schools that claim the end of their regular school day as child care, records show.
…Politicians who might have taken action have instead accommodated a Hasidic voting bloc that can sway local races.
There’s significant population that you ignore at your peril,” said Evan Stavisky, a veteran political consultant. “They are part of the fabric of New York politics.”
Yeshivas play a central role in getting out the vote. Before elections, teachers often give students sample ballots with names of the grand rabbis’ chosen candidates filled in, parents and former students said.
At some yeshivas, students who bring in their parents’ “I Voted” stickers win rewards. The Central United Talmudical Academy recently took children with stickers on a trip to Coney Island, two parents said. The other children had to stay behind. Mr. Connolly, the lawyer for some Hasidic schools, disputed the parents’ account.
Bamberger, the yeshiva coalition spokesman, said the Hasidic community’s large turnout should be applauded.
Over the past few years, rabbis have made keeping government out of the schools their central political priority.
“The truth is, we had very little secular studies or none at all,” Satmar Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum told followers in Yiddish in 2018, adding: “We will not comply, and we will not follow the state education commissioner under any circumstances.”
Shortly before winning an endorsement from one faction of the Satmar group, [Crooked Mayor] Adams released a video showing him scooting down a slide at a Hasidic yeshiva. After that hourlong visit, he said he was “really impressed” by what he saw. Speaking for Adams last week, Young said the mayor’s decisions are not influenced by political support.
Cuomo rarely shied from using his bully pulpit during nearly three terms as governor. But when it came to yeshivas, he told Satmar Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum in 2018 that he would not crack down, according to the Hasidic press. He won the group’s endorsement shortly thereafter and did not deny the report.
Hasidic leaders said the current governor, Hochul, made a similar pledge. While campaigning this year, she met with Hasidic leaders in Williamsburg. It was not clear what they discussed, but afterward an official Satmar Twitter account posted photos with a caption that read: “The Governor promised that she will fight any changes to the Yeshiva’s curriculum.”
The tweet was deleted soon after.
For their part, state officials have tried to enact rules that would have held yeshivas accountable by requiring a minimum amount of secular education. But a judge tossed out the rules over a procedural issue in 2019, and, in 2020, the state withdrew another plan after an outcry from Hasidic leaders. In March, they released another proposal with fewer requirements and muddier consequences for flouting the law.
Once again, Hasidic leaders have mobilized to block it.
“Now is our opportunity and scared duty to try to stop the guidelines before they go into effect,” they wrote this spring, in a Yiddish-language flier urging a flood of letters to oppose the plan. “The future of your generations rests in your own hands.”
To guarantee their followers would answer the call, the leaders turned to a reliable tactic.
They sent it home through the schools.