Activist behind push to gain equal education in Yeshiva private schools

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An education activist in Rockland's ultra-Orthodox community is renewing his call for stricter oversight of private schools.

Naftuli Moster has been in a seven-year battle in Albany to make sure private school children get the same education as those in public school.

"Tens of thousands of children are receiving little or no secular education,” Moster said.

"In high school, boys receive no secular education at all. Instead, they spend the entire day, as many as 14 hours a day, in Yeshiva, studying exclusively Judaic studies in Yiddish."

The former Yeshiva student, who lives in New City, founded the non-profit group YAFFED – short for Young Advocates for Fair Education – in 2012 after his experiences in private school.

The group is behind a controversial push in Albany, now in a public comment period, to enforce current state law requiring private schools to teach basic subjects like math, English and science.

"They have a legal obligation to enforce it right now,” Moster said.

Moster has new concerns now that Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia suddenly resigned this week. He hopes the new acting commissioner of state education, Beth Berlin, has the same priorities.

Moster's cause picked up momentum earlier this year until a lawsuit put a halt on state enforcement efforts. Critics of the oversight say it interferes with their religious freedom.

The public comment period for education equivalency continues for another six weeks.

The Board of Regents is expected to vote on the issue sometime in October.

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