Hasidic Jewish women discouraged from getting education

Since I’ve had a lick at Catholics and Muslims this week, it’s only fair to go after the religion of my ancestors—the Jews. Or at least one branch of Orthodox Jews, the Hasidim, a sect that started in Eastern Europe in the 18th century.

It’s a scandal among Jews— traditionally reputed to put such an emphasis on education—that some Orthodox sects often discourage any but religious education for men, and any education for women.  The results: undereducated women, unsuited for many jobs, and families forced to rely on welfare since men spend their time in religious studies while women, who are largely breeding stock among Hasidim, have to stay home with the children. You can read more about the dire consequences of these practices, which of course come directly from religious tradition, in a recent New York Times article by Gina Bellafante, “In Brooklyn, stifling higher learning among Hasidic women.

In Brooklyn, one sect of Hasidim, the Satmar, have recently made their little-education policy toward women even more regressive:

Among the Satmar in Brooklyn, use of the internet is condemned and secular education is considered of little use. In recent years, though, it became the fashion among some Satmar women to pursue special-education degrees after high school, typically online or through religious colleges. The women often go to work not in philosophically suspect places like Greenwich Village, but in schools within their community. Now, even that minor advance has been rolled back; some Satmar leaders issued a decree proclaiming that the practice would no longer be tolerated. A letter from the United Talmudical Academy, the governing body for a consortium of schools, meant for girls entering the 12th grade and their parents, stated that they “shouldn’t God forbid take a degree which is according to our sages, dangerous and damaging.”

The letter went on to say that girls shouldn’t learn college subjects and that those who refused to obey would be denied positions as teachers. Leaders, they said, had a responsibility to protect the religious educational system from outside influences. The notion is not an invention of the Hasidim, Allan Nadler, the director of Jewish studies at Drew University and a scholar of Hasidic practice, explained. The Mishna, a multivolume compilation of Jewish law that predates the Talmud, contains a prohibition against “external books.” Still, Mr. Nadler maintained, the recent decree reflects what he has observed over the years as a deepening fear of wider society.

The Talmudical Academy did not return calls seeking comment. [Surprise!]

That’s ridiculous, and they should be embarrassed that their “sages” stifle women’s ambitions in this way. It’s even worse because New York politicians cater to this enforced ignorance because they need the support of the powerful and numerous Jewish voting bloc. Here’s just one of thousands of stories in the Naked City (my emphasis in the following):

Many of [the Hasadim on welfare], Libelle Polaki, an exile from the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, told me, will resort to selling things online, which must be regarded as its own kind of sacrilege given the prohibitions against certain technologies. At 28, Ms. Polaki expects to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in December. This semester she is taking six classes and auditing two others. At a cafe in Williamsburg psychographically distant from the Williamsburg in which she spent part of her life, she spoke of the hard work it took to get where she is.

Having suffered through an arranged marriage, she said, she was forced to pay off her husband, with a sum of approximately $18,000, to get divorced; a philanthropist helped her come up with the money. She held several menial jobs after high school that made her miserable, one working for Satmar leaders doing secretarial work; one in a matzo factory; and another in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities, where she was fired, she told me, after reporting abuses by the staff.

They didn’t teach us anything in high school so I didn’t know anything, no Shakespeare or anything like that, no science,” she said. “I felt like a loser and I felt I wanted more out of life.” Growing up she was told not to go to libraries but she sneaked away to them anyway and at home read anything she could, including cereal boxes and junk mail because there was little else. At 26, she got her high school equivalency diploma and began her college studies. Over the summer, she studied philosophy in Greece. Two of her grandparents speak to her; two don’t. The friends she left behind, she said, are jealous of her freedom.

Ms. Polaki plans to apply to four-year colleges and hopes to attend an Ivy League school.


Libelle Polaki, 28. Credit Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Polaki, at enormous financial and psychological expense, managed to free herself from this repressive community. But most other women are trapped, shackled by religious dogma and the passel of children mandated by that dogma. The story of Polaki reading cereal boxes and junk mail because she was denied education almost brings me to tears.

All the Abrahamic religions repress women’s ambitions to some degree, but we usually think of Islam as being the most repressive. Don’t forget, however, about some sects of Orthodox Jews, whose denial of education to women is ignored to nearly the same extent as are the restrictions imposed by Islam. I can think of few worse things in life than to have your ambition smothered by blankets of scripture.


  1. eric
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Tears? It makes me angry. It makes me want the President to act dictatorially and eliminate private and homeschooling as a legal thing and force, where necessary, all parents to give their kids a reasonable primary and secondary education.

    At the very least, we need some national accreditation system for private and home-schooled programs. You don’t pass the accreditation, then it doesn’t count as ‘education’ and your kids go to public.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      That happens in some countries. Germany forbids homeschooling and I’ve heard of at least one Christian fundamentalist family that sought asylum in the US so they could teach their ?eight children their crap at home. They were refused asylum but not kicked out of the country. I note that this is one family none of Trump’s supporters have been trying to kick out of the US. In fact, they think they should get citizenship.

      We (NZ) have a national body that oversees education standards. Curricula must include certain things and be taught to a certain standard or schools are closed down. Lessons etc for all home-schooling are provided by the government. There are home schooling inspectors too, but I don’t know how the process works.

      My point is there are many countries where the education systems for primary and secondary schools provide demonstrably better results than the US so there are many models to look at and choose what would suit best. The PISA scores show which are getting the best results.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 6, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        I know an Christian evangelical family who home school here in the US. They use a curriculum that is pretty much like the secular system except that they keep talking about God between bits of subject matter. Their state requires only that they teach standard subject, but details are left to the parent. I perused the biology book they use looking to see how they handle evolution. It actually wasn’t as bad as I feared. The note in the teacher’s edition said evolution is fine as long as credit is given to God for creating everything.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 6, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          I find it quite worrying that it varies from state to state, but then I think that’s a lot to do with my own lack of comfort with a federal system of government.

          • rickflick
            Posted September 6, 2016 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

            The federal system in the US came from the fact that this country was founded out of 13 distinct colonies which were essentially individual countries. In banding together they did not want to give up all their sovereignty. In modern times the theory is federalism allows for diverse governments to fit the particular regions of the country. To some extent this satisfies a need for diversity and experimentation. The down side, of course, is that you get very uneven enforcement of some of the fundamental principles of culture – education, medical care, the treatment of minorities, etc.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted September 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            I find it quite worrying that it varies from state to state,

            … annnnnd I can already hear the Trumpets sounding brass, signifying nothing, and complaining about “states rights”. Which they’ve already had a civil war over (nothing to do with slavery).

  2. Christopher Bonds
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Good for Ms. Polaki. She fought to get free and did. But feel bad for those girls and women who for various reasons can’t get out.

  3. Christopher Bonds
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t enough for ultraorthodox and fundamentalist sects to wall themselves off from the world. They must hate the world as well, and denounce it as impure and evil. This makes them think more highly of themselves because they have risen above the world. Closer to God, I suppose. That’s egocentric and sociocentric thinking.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      They must hate the world as well, and denounce it as impure and evil.

      It’s fear. Gonad-shrivelling, testicle re-ascending (is there a female equivalent? none comes to mind), stomach-churning fear. Fear of modernity and the temptations it can so obviously provide, and the loss of power that would follow for the Patriarchy if their indoctrinees were to find out about the outside world, and even worse, have the option of experiencing it. The same applies to many other “fundamentalists” of a variety of religions in their myriad of flavours and schisms.
      From the fear flows the hate.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    It is not something I would even think existed in the U.S. today. Sounds like a story from one of those cults out west on the edge of Mormon territory. Good old religion, still doing terrible things.

    • eric
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      That comparison ran through my head too. It does read very much like how the Mormon polygamist sects operate: prevent women from leaving by ensuring they have no way of making a living outside of the community.

      • eric
        Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Actually my first impression appears to be wrong. Having read the link, it appears that the Satmar and other Hasidic groups like them educate their women as well as, or better, than their men; its just that “as well as” in this case means “appallingly poorly for both.” This makes them different from the Mormon fundies, who (AFAIK), limit womens’ education much more so than mens’.

  5. Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    In London, in some Charedi Jewish communities, it’s not just the girls who are discouraged from getting an education, it’s the boys as well:

    “Around the age of 13, the boys move to “yeshivas”. These schools often have very long school days – lasting more than 14 hours. Pupils are exclusively taught in Yiddish and only study scripture. They are not entered for GCSEs or for other qualifications.”

    “One ex-student of illegal Charedi schools, now in his 20s and outside the community, told Newsnight: “I’m starting to study for my GCSEs. I’m maybe like an eight-year-old, nine-year-old. That’s my level of education.”


    • eric
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      From the link, that appears to be the case here too. Sorry if my upstream post contributed to the impression that it was otherwise.

      • boggy
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        Some boys and a teacher from a north London Jewish school had to be rescued from the beach near Dover recently when cut off by the tide. They had passed warning signs but could not understand them, because they only speak and read Yiddish. There are a number of these schools in unsatisfactory buildings in north London and the education authority (Ofsted?) ignore the problems because they don’t want to be called anti-semitic.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          That really brings it home. It is staggering that they would be deliberately so ignorant that they cannot properly function in the country they live in.

          Could they read a railway timetable? Could they even catch the right train?


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I sent Jerry at least one link about this subject a couple of weeks ago – and since disposed of the link myself (I already know that the world is full of evil religious power-freaks ; I see no reason to waste my effort paying them more attention than they deserve).
      Another aspect of the UK’s Charedi community in addition to the illegally-sub-standard schools is that they’re running a multi-million pound legal defence fund specifically to fight divorce cases against women who try to leave the cult, to fight their claims for both child custody, and if the mothers don’t get custody, then they also fight to restrict or prevent access arrangements to the children. (I deliberately use gender-specific pronouns ; I am not aware of any cases of men leaving the cult, but I grant the possibility. I just haven’t heard of it happening.)
      I believe the phrase “bunch of evil bastards” would be a common response if this were more widely reported.
      On the concern of “the authorities” about being cast as “anti-semitic”, that’s easy – launch coordinated and simultaneous raids on an illegal Jewish school, an Islamic one, a Christian one, and to keep the balance, someone else like the Scientologists, JWs, Mormons, or some other bunch of nutters. It’s not like there is any great shortage of such illegal cult schools. (Or, if there genuinely is a shortage, well, how much of a problem is there really?)

  6. busterggi
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    But look at all the marvellous breakthroughs in medicine & science do to studying theology.

    Really, if you can find any please let me know.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      They’re all predicted in the Qur’an. Just ask an unquestioning believer.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        But don’t ask such questions in Saudi Arabia.

        • charlize
          Posted September 6, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

          And the Saudi $25 million given to the Clinton Foundation will help make sure that the US government continues to not question Saudi repression and torture of its citizens.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 6, 2016 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          Yes I saw that – it was you I shared it from on Facebook I think? I tweeted it as well. Disgusting!

  7. Posted September 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink


  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    One of my still favorite religious writers, Martin Buber, horribly horribly over-romanticized the Hasidim.

    It has been argued that Buber is just about the only religious writer a secular humanist or atheist could take seriously today (I could think of two or three others, but the point is legit.)

    While I still think his book “I and Thou” is a terrific work of philosophy, it remains the case that his ethereal and exotic view of Hasidic Judaism just flies in the face of everything I have encountered about them.

    Woody Allen does a fairly nice parody of Hasidic tales in his book “Getting Even”. I’m not sure if the rabbi Allen tranforms into (as a consequence of an “experimental vaccine”) is supposed to be Hasidic or not, though he seems to have the look. (Clip length 1:22 here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F54nR67PZPY )

    • Posted September 7, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      When Buber was writing, were the Hasidim as severe as they are now? I get the impression (perhaps wrongly) that they have gotten more extreme.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        See my comment in thread #3 above. If they are getting more extreme, then you can infer that they are getting more afraid.
        This is actually something that the (it’s not the PCC-gropers at the airports – the other bunch of ineffectual USA terrorism police, whatever their name is – call them TP until I remember their proper name) TP need to watch, because people in deep fear become increasingly likely to act irrationally (yeah – how would one measure that?), and to injure others in the process. It’s enough to drive them to drink.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I was speaking with a Jewish and religious colleague of mine and we were talking about a particularly sexist person who adheres to the tenets of Islam (the sexist ones) and doesn’t “allow” his wife to drive. He treats the women he works with badly too.

    She said that it surprised her that people thought Jews were just as sexist. I told her that I thought that if you were to compare Conservative Jews with conservative Muslims, you’d find Conservative Jews much less sexist but that all the Abrahamic religions are sexist and the more liberal they are the less sexist they become. It’s one of the reasons Reform Judaism exists.

    She rejected that part of my reasoning, claiming (and this is always a red flag when people of a religious group say it), “Jews treat women like queens”. Ignoring the obvious “othering” argument I could make, I asked her about the Haredi sect in Quebec that had only taught boys religious studies and hand relegated the girls to cooking, cleaning and breeding. She told me that was probably just a crazy sect because she knew lots of Haredi where women were treated equally.

    I didn’t buy it but I figured it was a good time to stop pushing the subject because I like her a lot and I work with her closely so I didn’t want to make a bunch of hurt feelings and come off as the jerk atheist (she knows I’m an atheist and her kids are atheists).

    It’s just sad people can’t accept how religion can be really vile.

    • Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      When sensible people irrationally defend non-sensible beliefs, they may be actually defending loved ones.

      Reading Popper’s “Open Society and its Enemies”, I was perplexed how a mind of such magnitude and iconoclastic courage could engender so much praise of Christianity and claim that every nice idea in the world is perfectly compatible with Christianity.

      Then, I read his autobiography “Unended Quest” and figured out that he was actually defending his father. Popper Sr. was a Jew who converted to Christianity because (in his words) he found Judaism offensive to Christians.

      Of course, Judaism was offensive to many Christians; some of them were so deeply offended that organized the Holocaust. I was saddened by the eagerness of Karl Popper to seek lofty motives in an act presumably driven by mere self-preservation. I think that if he had less filial piety, this would be good for his books.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      There’s a small town in the north-east US, the name of which I’ve forgotten, which has a majority population of conservative Jews. One of the things people notice about the women, apart from their dress, is that none of them drive. Apparently they’re not allowed to by their husbands/fathers.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      It’s one of the reasons Reform Judaism exists.

      Quoth Cleese in the Sermon unto Brian, “Splitters!”

  10. GodlessMarkets
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Polaki’s part of the story is truly inspiring. What follows is not meat to disparage that but only to reconsider this story in light of Coyne’s musings on free will—which I don’t think I entirely agree with. So let me throw this out there and see if there’s anything interesting. Hope this isn’t too long or hastily contrived, but if so just ignore.

    There are many rats in a cage. All the rats have preferences and abilities that are programmed at birth. There are two food sources in the cage. Source 1 is filled with pellets that promote something we will call growth; source 2 is filled with pellets with pellets that have no growth-promoting capacity.

    The experimenter varies the accessibility of the food sources, and assume the experimenter makes the growth-promoting pellets harder to get, so that only rats who really like the taste of growth and have the physical capacity to reach the growth pellets consume those pellets.

    There’s no moral judgment here, no free will, just rats programmed at birth with abilities and tastes. But if I, as an observer care about growth outcomes among rats, I would recommend making the growth pellets easy to get, and the non-growth pellets hard to get.

    Incentives would be all that mattered. Encourage growth, tax no-growth. It’s a libertarian’s paradise, and I need no free will. Just incentives.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      You’re making the libertarian assumption that poor people don’t work as hard as rich people and that everyone has equal chances and potential, and that everyone has the capacity to get rich if they want to, and money is the best and only indicator of success etc etc.

      • GodlessMarkets
        Posted September 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for responding.

        I did not mean to go there, but I guess I did…I was more trying to make a plug for economics… That is, I was trying to say that even if there is no free will in the sense that we are just programmed, there will still be things we might reasonably call “choices,” that those choices matter and might be usefully studied, and that incentives matter.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

          That’s one thing we can agree on – incentives do matter, and they affect behaviour. It is definitely useful to study how as well.

  11. Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Polaki is a heroine. But I think of others who lack her abilities and remain out in the dark. It is a shame to leave First World young people uneducated because of religion. Of course, all these “ultra-orthodox” cults know very well what they are doing. If they allow/encourage education, too many of the youths will leave the cult. I do not know where “freedom of religion” should end and government should intervene to guarantee the right of children to education. I think this problem has no easy solution.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      She’s amazing and good on her. I wonder about freedom of religion in this case – the kids are born into it and know nothing else, and often leaving the religion means leaving their families. That’s okay if you have a horrible family, but most won’t have horrible families and it’ll be hard to leave.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        I think the word you’re looking for is in the thesaurus with “extortion.”
        Quoth the Patriarch unto his children, “You can’t leave! Think how upset your mother will be!”

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink


  12. Posted September 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations to Libelle Polaki: well done. It makes me want to start a second career as a book smuggler. What’s Yiddish for Librotraficante?

  13. Jiten
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    “…ambition smothered by blankets of scripture.”

    What a felicitous phrase! I love it.

  14. GBJames
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Good for her. And for all escapees.

  15. Posted September 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    They didn’t teach us anything in high school so I didn’t know anything, no Shakespeare or anything like that, no science”

    From the summary portion of the relevant law in our state: “The 11 required subjects are reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation.”

    Are there no standards for what is taught in home schooling in New York State? Or do such standards exist but haredi schools are exempt from such standards?

    • Posted September 6, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like someone is advocating for taking away their precious religious freedom 😉

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      in our state: “The 11 required subjects

      “reading, writing, spelling, language,” – no mention of in which language, so they’ll just point out that the kids leave school well versed (sorry – it snucked up on me!) in centuries-old Yiddish and/ or Arameic.
      “math,” – The BuyBull has mathematics in it. Pi = 3, that sot of thing.
      “science,” – just how did that bush burn without being consumed? Celestial mechanics were involved in the Joshua Trumpet Band’s performance at Jericho. Lots of science in the BuyBull.
      “social studies, history,” LOTS of that in the BuyBull.
      “health,” dietary laws, ad nauseam. Sorted.
      “occupational education,” To be a Rabbi.
      “art and music appreciation.” Ah, now there you’ve got me. But to be honest, I did my physics homework in those classes when the teacher wasn’t bugging me.
      A list like that is pretty useless without a fairly detailed curriculum. Oh, and you do need to specify the language somewhere.

  16. Posted September 6, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    … and a little more searching finds the required subject matter for home-schooling for New York State (see here).

    Of course the haredi schools are not home-schooling, technically. Still, how do they get away with not having instruction on these topics, and not having their students tested on them?

    • Posted September 6, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      An organization called YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), consisting of former students at haredi schools, pressured the New York State education authorities on this issue. It seems to be going slowly in spite of the state saying it would investigate this.

  17. joyandorla
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, Satmars are a tiny subset of American Jewry.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      So, by implication, this sort of manufacture of socially-useless children is something that the Israeli state does not tolerate at all?

  18. Hempenstein
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    At first I read the part about junk mail and cereal boxes as she was hiding stuff in them from the library, but no. Jesus Haploid Christ!

    As a post-doc in Stockholm, I learned Swedish partly from reading day-old newspapers on the subway en route to the lab (comics were particularly helpful), ingredients lists on stuff in grocery stores, and that sort of thing, but that was because there was no time for formal language classes – they were available, tho.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      At first I read the part about junk mail and cereal boxes as she was hiding stuff in them from the library, but no. Jesus Haploid Christ!

      You know, that story is ringing bells. I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere before. Can’t remember where though.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    A few years ago I tried a series of federal criminal cases in the Southern and Eastern districts of New York — Manhattan and Brooklyn — representing Hasidic defendants from Kiryas Joel and Crown Heights, all of them charged with some variety of fraud. My law partner whom I was trying these cases with was from an Orthodox background (although he is himself about secular as they come).

    About three or four trials in, I had to go to my partner and say, look, all of my Jewish friends are either secular or Reform, with an occasional Conservative thrown in for good measure, but that the only Hasidim I was meeting were all charged with criminal conduct, and I was starting to get a jaded feeling toward them.

    When we got back to Miami between trials, he invited me out to lunch with a local Orthodox rabbi, who took me around that afternoon and introduced me to a group of regular, decent, hardworking, honest Hasidim from his congregation. Speaking with them helped me get my bearings back, and I went on and finished the remaining cases.

    It made for an interesting and unique experience, being up there in NY among the ultra-Orthodox.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      What was your win-loss record for these cases?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        One outright acquittal. (We always mention that one first 🙂 )

        A couple mistrials/hung juries, in cases that were thereafter resolved through reduced charges.

        The others resulted in convictions, although always with not-guilty verdicts on some counts — in some instances, on the most serious charges, saving the defendant substantial potential prison time.

        In this line of work, you measure your victories according to the best realistic potential outcome — and you take your “victories” wherever you find them. (Sometimes just sparing a client the death penalty constitutes a huge win.)

        • rickflick
          Posted September 6, 2016 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

          Interesting. I’m glad to see that the “system” is working and that there are people out there making it work.

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Why do they get welfare when their poverty is entirely self-inflicted?

    (And the same question goes for those weird cultish rural homeschooled “Christian” families with dozens of children and nobody working).


    • eric
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      “Won’t somebody think of the children” is an overused phrase, but here it’s actually relevant. They should get state welfare because no matter what idiotic decisions their parents are making, the Hasidim kids deserve decent food, clothing, a roof over their heads, etc.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Then there is the notion that society also owes the children a brain.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Their genes (and food) provide the brain. Whether society has any say over what goes into the brain is a political question for that society.
          I’m sure that someone in the Trump camp is working up his proposals for what children will be taught during the first “Presidency” of the Trump Dynasty. Literally, that person will be the “someone thinking of the children”.

        • eric
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          I agree that society should provide them a decent education, but education is generally not considered a welfare benefit (also, the state does provide the opportunity, even if they don’t require parents use it; kinda like food stamps don’t force you to buy food).

          • rickflick
            Posted September 7, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            Education is not a welfare benefit, but it is a benefit to society. The Michigan law requires home schools to teach all the basic subjects. To allow the young to grow up without any education in these subjects is very damaging to them and to society. I’d hope that a law like that of Michigan could be used to pry the religious children out of ignorance. What’s happening is a form of child abuse.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

              I quite agree with Rickflick there.

              I’m actually strongly pro-welfare, but IMO those Hasidic parents (and the Xtian ones I mentioned) are ripping off the system – that very same system and society that they profess to despise.


  21. Paul
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    “I can think of few worse things in life than to have your ambition smothered by blankets of scripture.”

    Quote of the day!

  22. chrism
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    There is a large Mennonite community where I live, and I have been lucky enough to get to know some families very closely. They have restrictions on education for both sexes, but more stringent for the girls. A small number will return to education in their twenties and I have observed a couple of women who managed to escape/avoid being encouraged to marry the suggested husband becoming teachers and staying within the community to teach. Both were later married to widowers and acquired a bunch of children overnight.
    It goes without saying they are honest, do good work (but charge appropriately – they cost more than other builders do) and are generally a pleasure to live alongside. I have known some women reveal a sly and mischievous sense of humour and they feel they pull the strings at home whatever their husbands might think. But such a waste of minds! Polite, steady kids who would make wonderful students nearly all going to manual labour after grade 8 or 10. So much as I loved them as patients, I always wanted to subvert their customs.

  23. Posted September 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    There was a case a few years back of someone suing the Quebec Ministry of Education because the QME hadn’t enforced the rules (about mathematics and other parts of the curriculum, for example) on the Hasidic school that his parents forced him to attend as a kid. I don’t know what happened with that.

    In Quebec, however, that might be more plausible in some sense to succeed, because there actually *is* a curriculum one has to follow if one is granting a Quebec secondary school diploma. Private / alternative schools simply *add* to that, though up until recently religious education proper was “replacable” – now it is not, and Idon’t know what happened to the coalition of Jewish and Catholic private schools which fought that change.

    • eric
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      The ACSI vs. Sterns case a few years back, in the US, is an interesting parallel and probably about as close as the US is going to get to enforcing standards. In summary, California universities guarantee admission to the top 10% of CA students from accredited schools. Some private Christian schools sued because they wanted the accreditation but didn’t get it. They lost.

      This shows a couple of interesting things. First, that not all private Christian school-users are necessarily ‘forever outside’ the mainstream. Many of them want their kids to go to mainstream colleges and Universities, and they choose the private religious option for reasons other than opposition to mainstream ideas (perceived better safety and quality probably being the top two). That’s important; it means we shouldn’t just write these families or these close-hold communities off as religious wackos, because not all of them are. The second thing it shows is that even in a “no federal standards” system like the US, there are ways to incentivize providing good education to your kids. It is easy to reach for the stick of regulation, but it might not be necessary if we can find the right carrots. California found some. Its an incomplete answer, and certainly wouldn’t help in the Satmar case. But it could point to a partial solution relevant to other cases of fundie non- and mis-education.

    • infiiteimprobability
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      That is a perverse lawsuit, IMO. He should have sued, first, the school, second, his parents. Suing the QME is like suing the police for not stopping a burglar from robbing you.


      • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        The QME is supposed to regulate private schools, though, in the way described – refusing to grant diplomas to pupils who have not received appropriate instruction. (I agree he should sue his parents also.) It would be analogous to suing someone in charge of environmental regulations because they looked the other way when an illegal polluter was doing its thing.

        Schools *don’t have* follow the rules; they are able to apply to have Quebec diplomas granted if they don’t. (The QME grants the diplomas, technically, *not* the school boards or the schools.)

        There was one place near my parents which did this for a while because they had a bunch of students whose parents were around only momentarily from foreign countries and the other countries didn’t care whether or not the students actually had a Quebec diploma when they graduated. I think this stopped when enough parents realized they were screwing their kids over – it effectively prevents them going to CEGEP and university in Quebec or the latter anywhere in Canada. (I imagine it would create trouble for going to the US, too.)

  24. Mike
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I found that very depressing, perhaps there could be a way to make this kind of thing illegal .? But no doubt they’ll scream about their human rights, forgetting about the human rights of the female half of their Sects and condemning them to a life of what in reality is .servitude .

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