Judge to Decide This Coming Monday on Pivotal Yeshiva Lawsuit

A state judge set a date for next week to hear arguments whether to place a temporary halt to intrusive education department guidelines imposed on the state’s private schools, a hearing legal experts told Yated will be pivotal to see if the court feels the schools have a chance at winning.

The state Supreme Court judge said that he will decide this coming Monday if he should put an emergency injunction on the state agency’s unprecedented attempt to oversee private school education. He also combined three different lawsuits into one, saying he will rule on the request by yeshiva groups, the Catholic school system and a group of upstate independent schools.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel, which is one of the plaintiffs in the suit, told Yated on Monday that the way the judge rules is crucial to see how much of a chance he thinks the private schools have to win.

“If we’re going to win the preliminary injunction,” said Rabbi Zwiebel, who is a former attorney, “by law it means that the judge thinks that we’re going to win the eventual case. Unless there’s a likelihood of success on the merits the court will not put an injunction in place.”

The injunction would restrict the state’s education department from enforcing the guidelines, which establish a minimum of four and a half hours of secular studies every day and mandates teaching morally objectionable subjects.

Buttressing their point that the guidelines represent an existential threat to the yeshivos, the groups suing the education department submitted twelve affidavits from a cross section of the olam haTorah, including by a Nobel Economics Prize recipient, attorneys and businessmen.

One of the affidavits was written by Professor Robert Aumann, who won the Nobel prize in 2005 for his work on game theory analysis — which he said he developed after learning a Gemara in Maseches Kesubos — and credited his studies at Yeshiva Rabbi Jacob Joseph for his original love for mathematics.

“I submit this declaration to advise the Court of the excellent education that I received at RJJ, and the exceptionally positive impact my experience with RJJ’s dual curriculum has had on my life,” he wrote. “In my experience, the religious study portion of the dual-curriculum program offered at schools such as RJJ is essential to the continuity of the Jewish people. People who do not experience the intense, immersive experience of religious studies during their school years are far less likely to remain religiously observant or committed, and they or their families are far more likely to abandon religious practice entirely.”

Aumann, who lives in Yerushalayim, said that if he had been advising teenagers where to pursue their studies, he would say that “had I stayed in Stuyvesant and not gone to RJJ, I still might have pursued a career in mathematics and won a Nobel Prize. But had I stayed in Stuyvesant and not gone to RJJ, I would have been a very different person than the one I became.”

Rav Yisroel Reisman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, describes the meetings he’s had with Commissioner MaryEllen Elia ahead of the guidance’s release. He said that his yeshiva, which is notable for its excellent limudei kodesh and secular studies program, would have to cut from their religious studies to fit in the classes mandated by the guidelines.

Other papers were given by Professor Aaron Twerski of Brooklyn Law School, who said he would “challenge any large-scale secular educational system to match the results accomplished by our schools.”

Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kirzner, a professor emeritus of economics at New York University, observed that yeshivos “have amply demonstrated that their educational vision can and does produce graduates fully capable of achieving success in all fields of endeavor. Their institutions must not be transformed by those who are utterly detached from the broader goals of Jewish religious education.”

Avi Weinstock, Agudah’s associate director of education affairs, noted the “irony that the yeshivos that provided me with an excellent education could not satisfy the requirements of the New Guidelines.”

The lawsuit by the yeshivos — which was brought by five of America’s oldest yeshivos, Agudah, Torah Umesorah and PEARLS, as well as a group of parents — focused on the argument that the education department overstepped its authority by publishing the guidelines and that it deprives parents of their rights to educate their children as they see fit.

The Catholic system, on the other hand, competes directly with the public schools for students. The crux of their claim is that it sets up public schools to oversee how its competition performs.