Bintel Blog

Hasidic-Controlled School Board Roils Rockland County

By Nathaniel Popper

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Things have gone from bad to worse for the Hasidic Jews living in New Square and a few other Hasidic enclaves near the Catskills.

A few weeks ago, we told you about the battle in Rockland County over a proposed kosher slaughterhouse that would be built less than a hundred feet from a residential neighborhood — a proposal that has not endeared the ultra-Orthodox Jews of New Square to their neighbors.

Now, though, the slaughterhouse issue is being overshadowed by anger over the way in which the ultra-Orthodox communities control the local school board. It turns out that the people who send their kids to public school are not happy about the school board being controlled by people who send their kids to private religious schools and who seem to be primarily interested in lowering their own taxes and increasing the amount of money going to special education programs.

Peter Applebome of the Times was at a public meeting in which the public school parents vented their anger Hasidic-controlled East Ramapo school board. One of the non-Hasidic members of the school board, Mimi Calhoun, told Applebome: “We talk about money, about bids, budgets, contracts. We don’t talk about education. It’s shocking, and it’s becoming demoralizing for the district.”

The latest battle was set off after the board decided to hire a lawyer used by other Orthodox-controlled school boards, a lawyer who happens to be an expert at funneling money to special education students in religious schools, and who also happens to be charge nearly four times as much as the current school board attorney.

This is not the first time that Rockland County’s Hasidic Jews have had trouble over their handling of public educational funds. Back in 1999 four New Square men were given prison terms for abusing public money designated for educational programs. That time the men got off thanks to a controversial pardon from Bill Clinton.


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