By Avi Lesches
There are about 500,000 Orthodox Jews in the New York City metro area. You’d think a group of this size would have the ability and power to stand up for itself when it comes under attack, especially an existential one.
But recently, a handful of malicious individuals launched a campaign to slander our yeshivas—but we dismissed them. Who will listen to a few disgruntled individuals with so clear an agenda of destruction? But they were loud, and the government accepted their accusations at face value, began investigations, and has now finally proposed regulations to directly interfere with our yeshivas.
We should clarify: our politicians work for us; they are our representatives. Why do we have to justify our millenia-old tradition and sacred heritage to them? Why is it that in America, a place of refuge from historic religious persecution and where we have been able to practice the faith for which we fought and died for thousands of years, our tradition is being blatantly threatened?
Today, it is unacceptable to threaten nearly every minority culture. Imagine the uproar if the legislature attempted to intervene with the African, Latino, or Native American communities—it would rightly be a front-page scandal! However, for some reason, it is fair game to threaten the Orthodox Jewish way of life, for which millions of Jews have given their lives to defend.
For those who are not yet familiar with the severity of this issue, let me explain. If the New York State Education Department’s Proposed Regulations are enacted and enforced, a school deemed to be non-compliant with these Regulations will no longer be considered a school pursuant to the state’s Education Law. Any child that attends that school will be considered truant. If a child is deemed truant, their parents can be fined, jailed and, in some cases, the State can legally take away the child from their parents!
Meaning that these regulations can result in the legal kidnapping of our children! Some may argue that this isn’t likely to happen, but the law is explicit that it may happen—should we take the risk and wait and see? Historically, this has not been a good idea.
We need to fight these regulations with everything we have. We cannot remain silent; we must speak up now before it is too late! The Constitution is on our side; the votes are on our side, justice on our side, yet here we are, fighting to preserve our most fundamental rights as Americans, as parents, and as human beings.
In the past, persecution of Judaism was usually because the government was an oppressive dictatorship composed of overt antisemites. The U.S. is a constitutional democracy; it is a medina shel chesed (a country of kindness) that has allowed us to practice our religion freely and without government interference. This status quo is now being threatened. While there may be a few antisemitic politicians, most are decent people and would not intentionally harm us. We are just not speaking up enough. We have been too passive. We need to act now and let our elected officials know loud and clear that any additional restrictions on our yeshivas are against the will of their constituents and should be rejected.
Please do your part, sign the petition requesting that the regulations be rejected and share it with your friends and family at ProtectChinuch.com