Op-ed: Stop the unfair campaign against yeshivos

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Each of the hundreds of people who pass through the offices of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, which I’m privileged to head, has a story. Many of them are struggling with affording the necessities of life seeking help with things like rent or mortgage payments, food and medical bills. And many are caring for parents or grandparents who are Holocaust survivors, our greatest generation whose perseverance allowed the Jewish people to live another day.

One thing is a constant among us Boro Parkers — an uncompromising devotion to a traditional Jewish education. Our yeshivas are the crown jewels of our community. They have been the engine of the re-establishment of Jewish life in America after World War II. 

In recent months, The New York Times has placed a target squarely on the back of our yeshivos. Reading the Times of late would lead one to think that yeshivas deliver a subpar education while continuously squeezing the government of money. If it were some white supremacist website lobbing such charges, it would be labeled – and rightly so – as antisemitic.

They say to never  pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, but as a community leader, I must express my pain and anguish over the fact that a media outlet – much less a self-characterized “paper of record” – can lob such hate-bombs in the 21st century and get next to no response outside the Orthodox community.

I grew up in Boro Park and attended its yeshivas. I can unequivocally declare that the Times got it wrong. Utterly, hatefully and painfully wrong. We, the Jewish People, invented the concept of secular education 2,500 years ago. While Europe sagged in a thousand-year slump during the Middle Ages, for the Jewish People it was an era of  renaissance. And today, it remains the wish of every parent of a child in yeshiva that their progeny receive a traditional Jewish education. 

And the facts speak for themselves: thousands upon thousands of yeshiva students graduate with skills and degrees that allow them to become successful in a wide variety of professions and businesses, productive members of society.

The Times cherry picks selected statistics and relies on a handful of discontents who left the Orthodox community to make its “case.”  That may make, sadly, for Pulitzer-worthy reportage. But to describe it as misleading would be an understatement. An assortment of responsible media and community organizations have exposed the Times’ faulty methodology in its fourteen – fourteen! – hit pieces about our community over the past four months. And, aside from the mendaciousness itself, the relentless attacks in print on us is rightfully feared by many of us to only encourage more physical attacks on visibly Orthodox Jews. In the world’s most tolerant and liberal city, how can this stand unchallenged?

Avi Greenstein is the CEO of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council.