I Have Mixed Feelings About the NY Times Article on Hasidic Education

One of the many rights that a parent has is to determine how their child should be educated. That being said, if the young person is not able to function as an adult because their academic experience was lacking, then something must be done to fix it.

Last Sunday, the New York Times released a rather scathing report on the status of education in the Hasidic Jewish community. Written by Eliza Shapiro and Brian M. Rosenthal, the article accused many schools (boys schools to be specific) of taking state funds and not using them to ensure that the students receive at the very least, basic secular learning.

Both The Brian Lehrer Show and Unorthodox (start at 15:46) addressed the findings. Before I go any further, I have to advise on two points:

  1. I am not an alumnus of any of these institutions. I was sent to public school during the day and attended Hebrew school in the afternoon. Obviously, I cannot speak from personal experience.
  2. In the Hasidic world, men are expected to become religious scholars. It is the women who earn traditional degrees and later a paycheck while taking care of the family.

    I understand the purpose of educating the next generation in a faith-based setting (particularly when that faith is a minority). It is important to know the language, traditions, and history of one’s family. I also know that public education in this country is not up to par.

    However, the accusations made can be seen as antisemitic. It does not matter that the reporters could be of the same religion as the subjects of the story. Even if the state and the city were lax in doing their own follow-up, the idea that these communities were using the money improperly only adds to lies about my co-religionists and the hate-based crimes. On top of that, the Times does not exactly have a history of having journalistic integrity when it comes to my religion.

    Regardless of one’s perspective, this topic is bound to be controversial. I just wish that the truth, whatever it is, comes to a conclusion that allows young people to receive the classroom experience they deserve.

    The Book of Lost Names Review

    During wartime, there are multiple ways of fighting an invading enemy. One way is doing combat on the battlefield. The other is joining the resistance and fighting in ways that are not obvious to the naked eye.

    The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel, was published last year It starts in 2005. Eva Traube Abrams is a semi-retired librarian living in Florida. While putting her books away, she is drawn to an article in the New York Times. Within the article is the image of a book that Eva has not seen in decades-The Book of Lost Names. It describes the libraries that were looted by the Nazis and the attempt by modern-day authorities to return the books to their rightful owners. The book in the photograph contains a code that researchers are unable to crack. But Eva knows its secret.

    The narrative flashes back to 1942. Eva was then a young woman living in Paris with her whole life ahead of her. But because she and her family are Jewish, there is a target on all of their backs. When her father is taken away, Eva and her mother escape to a small town in rural France that is not yet under Nazi control.

    Joining the resistance, she starts forging documents for Jewish children who are trying to get to Switzerland. But this kind of work is dangerous in both the physical and emotional sense. Eva starts to fall for Remy, a young man with a handsome face and a charming demeanor. To save the real identities of the young ones she is trying to save, their real names are recorded in The Book of Lost Names. This work becomes even more important when Remy disappears and their network is betrayed.

    As usual, Harmel writes in a way that is entertaining, readable and teaches the audience without hitting them over the head. As the main character, Eva is a compelling heroine. The story is absorbing and exciting. My problem is that the romance overwhelms the narrative. It almost felt like the love story took prominence over the war. I get that Eva is young and falling in love is part of being young, but I wish the emphasis was a bit more on the danger of their work.

    Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

    The Book of Lost Names is available wherever books are sold.

    The President is a Traitor

    The main role of the President of the United States is to protect the country and her citizens. His or her personal needs are second to the needs of the country. In our history, most American Presidents have at the very least, understood this concept. I can’t say the same about the man who currently holds the title.

    According to a damning report in the New York Times, you know who was advised that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government has been paying bounties to to Afghan terrorists to kill American troops. Instead of supporting and protecting members of the American military as he has routinely stated, he is letting Putin walk all over him.

    Putin is not dumb, by any stretch of the imagination. One does not hold onto power for twenty years without learning a thing or two. He knows how to play the game. The problem is that you know who does not know how to play, nor does he listen to those who have.

    If this report is true (though knowing him, it probably is), then you know who is a traitor. He has sold this nation out for his own needs. What is worse, he has sold us out to someone who is using him to bring the United States to its needs.

    If I were to list every reason that you know who should not be re-elected in the fall, this reason would be number one. He claims to be a grade-A salesman. Instead he is being sold a bill of goods that is putting us all in danger.

    He MUST not win a second term.

    While You Know Who Hits the Links, Americans Die

    Ask anyone above a certain age and they will surely tell you about the stressors in their lives. Whether it is work, school, family, health, or other stressors, they will always be part of our lives in one form or another. It therefore goes without saying that even with the stress that life brings, we all deserve a little bit of downtime.

    That includes the President of the United States.

    Yesterday, you know who was not found in Washington D.C., doing his job. He was in Virginia, enjoying a round of golf. In ordinary times with another President, a round of golf on a warm Saturday in May would be a non-issue. But this is not, as we all, know, an ordinary time and the man we unfortunately refer to as President isn’t exactly doing the job he was hired to do.

    Yesterday, the New York Times printed a partial list of Americans who died from Covid-19. When I see the list, I don’t see the number or a long list of names. I see individual human beings who had were unique in their own way. The only thing that brings them together is that they are no longer here because of Covid-19.

    The disgusting irony in that while you know who criticized former President Barack Obama for playing golf, he does the same thing without criticism.

    Back in 2016, you know who made the following promise on the campaign trail:

    “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

    And yet, he has spent $134,000,000 of tax payer money doing what he promised not to do.

    We all know that politicians make promises on the campaign trail that never come to pass once they are in office. But when said politicians makes the promise and then breaks it when lives are stake, it is more than troubling. It is a reason to ensure that they only service one term.

    The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation Book Review

    Unless one is a diehard political junkie, the confirmation process of potential Supreme Court judges is an event that can be missed. But the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh last year was must-see TV. The sexual assault allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford made viewers and those in the halls of power ask if Judge Kavanaugh was truly up to the task at hand.

    The new book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by New York Times writers Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin, is more than the story of Judge Kavanaugh. It is a mirror that reveals the truth that America is a divided nation, politically, socially and culturally. While telling the story of Judge Kavanaugh’s life, Kelly and Pogrebin do a deep dive into who their subject is and the accusations that nearly stopped his career in its path.

    Like many Americans, I watched this story like a hawk last fall. What I like about the book is that the writers leave the perspective up to the interpretation of the reader. Though they make clear that the allegations are serious (as they should), they do not play judge and jury.

    As a feminist, I have two perspectives on this story. The first perspective is that Judge Kavanaugh acted in a way that only one who is young, immature and stupidly drunk will act. It appears that in middle age, he has matured well beyond the young man he was in the 1980’s. The second perspective is that this is a man who has no respect for women, especially when he is not sober. If he truly has no respect for women, how is able to make sound legal judgements that can potentially affect millions of American women?

    I recommend it.

    She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement Book Review

    Throughout history, there has been an obvious power imbalance between men and women. Especially when it came to sex.

    When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in 2017, it forever changed the way that rape and sexual assault are viewed. But bringing that story to the front page was not easy. In the new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recount the months long and difficult process of bringing this story to the public.

    For decades, there were whispers within Hollywood about producer Harvey Weinstein. But as soon as reports surfaced of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they were put down as mere rumor. That is until Kantor and Twohey started digging. That digging opened a Pandora’s box of truth, lies and the people who would do almost anything to close that box again.

    This book reads like a fictional thriller instead of a real story. It is a heart pounding roller coaster ride until the very end of the book. We know how the story ends, but there were so many blockages for Kantor and Twohey that I started to wonder if justice would finally prevail. When I finally finished the book, I was relieved that Weinstein was finally getting what was coming to him.

    The thing that strikes me about this book and this story is that it is universal among women. The women who come forward in this book tell the same story, with minor details changed for their specific narrative. They range from Hollywood A-listers to fast food workers to teenage girls assaulted by their drunk male classmates. If nothing else, I think that this book and others of this nature are a starting point for a conversation that is more than overdue.

    I absolutely recommend it.

    Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper Book Review

    When opening a newspaper or turning on the television to watch the local news, the hope is that the journalists are doing their jobs by just reporting the news. It is up to the viewer or the reader to decide how to react.

    Unfortunately, as in many things, hope often springs eternal.

    In the 2006 book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, journalist Laurel Leff examines how during World War II, the editors of the New York Times and the paper’s Jewish publisher, Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, either minimized or ignored the mass slaughter of Jews in Europe by the Nazis.

    This book is a slow read. Normally I would say that books that are slow are not worth the time it takes to read the book. However, this book is. It should be a slow read because by the time I finished the book, I was angry. I was angry because, the New York Times, then and now, is one of the most influential papers in the country. Instead of using their influence to help their fellow human beings (and their fellow Jews), they decided to save their own skins.

    I kept thinking while I was reading this book that if Mr. Sulzberger and his Jewish staff had been in Europe and not the United States, they might have suffered the same fate as the six million.

    I recommend it.

    Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts Book Review

    In a thriving, living democracy, the press does not merely exist as a mouth piece for those in power. The press provides balance, holding up a mirror to the country and asking question to ensure that the democracy lives on. The problem these days in the US is that certain elected officials believe that the press should be there just to be a mouthpiece. Any media organization or reporter who says otherwise is labelled as “enemy off the people”.

    For the last 17 years, David E. McCraw has been the Deputy General Counsel at the New York Times. Last month, his new book, Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts was published. In the book, Mr. McCraw describes how his legal expertise was used to advise reporters and editors on news stories that might rattle some cages. He also describes how the current Presidential administration has done everything they can, short of illegally throwing journalists in jail, to stop the Times from printing certain articles.

    While the New York Times is not my favorite newspaper, I admire the journalists who fight daily for our rights to free press. Written openly and candidly, this book is for those who believe in the American democracy and are willing to fight for it.

    I recommend it.

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