promoted by Rosi
Awoke this morning (Monday) to read about the latest in Chris Christie’s pandering to the Lakewood ultra-Orthodox community:
When the final list was released last week, one of the biggest – and perhaps most surprising – winners was Beth Medrash Govoha, a 70-year-old, all-male, orthodox Jewish rabbinical school in Lakewood. It was awarded $10.6 million in taxpayer funds for a new library and academic center, among the highest designated for a private institution.
This comes on the heels of the same Lakewood community showing up in droves to support the Governor’s ‘school choice’ agenda of siphoning public money to private schools. He received their endorsement back in March:
At Yeshiva Toras Aron, a religious school for boys, Christie said his proposal for private school vouchers would ensure it is “the education of the parents’ choice, regardless of their economic situation, that governs how their children are educated.”
The fact is, I am embarrassed to be an observant Jew living in New Jersey today.
My children attend a private Jewish school, and I pay full tuition. Of course, I’m also still paying local property taxes that support our great public schools. As we all should. We have many families who cannot afford tuition, so we spend a good deal of time trying to raise money for scholarships — from alumni, from members of the greater community, from private foundations — and each year is a unique challenge. But that was the choice that I made, because I wanted my children to learn something that has no place in a public school!
But there’s this tendency in the ultra-Orthodox world to try and manipulate the system to subsidize their choices; in Lakewood it has gotten ridiculous. They now hold the majority of the seats on the school board — and none of their kids go to the public schools! But they are able to exert control on things like courtesy busing because their population continues to multiply — exponentially — as young men move to the area to study at this world-renowned Yeshiva, start families, and then never leave town.
One could argue that population growth and economic development is just what Lakewood needed. And if this school is part of that, all the better. But the data on childhood poverty, and the tensions between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the community, suggest that there has been a significant cost to this growth.
The college claims that there are no religious admissions requirements. And that may, in fact, be true on paper. But in order to meet the academic requirements, one would have to have been studying his entire life in private yeshivas. And I know for a fact that those elementary and high schools do have strict rules in place. More so, one would need the recommendation from the right kind of rabbi to gain admissions to BMG, and the ultra-Orthodox community vigorously self-polices. Whether or not one gets officially ordained as a rabbi, no one goes to this college to do anything other than to study the sacred texts.
So it’s a farce to make a comparison to a school like Seton Hall, where anyone can enroll and take classes, and graduate with a degree outside the religious curriculum.
What this is all about is politics.
Those who choose to live in this community listen closely to what their religious leaders say when it comes time to vote. And they do vote, in very large numbers, and for whom they are told to do so. And they are being told to vote for Christie. Period.