During the mayoral campaign in New York City, Eric Adams won the support of many leaders of the city’s orthodox Jewish community, which often votes as a bloc for the candidate who promises to protect their insular world and the flow of government funds. In a recent speech to a Modern Orthodox Jewish audience, Mayor Adams said that the city’s public schools should try to duplicate the “achievements” of the city’s yeshivas (most of which are run by Hasidim, not Modern Orthodox). The Hasidic yeshivas have been heavily criticized for their failure to teach a secular education.

This is astonishing.

Mayor Adams was probably just pandering to his audience, but he revealed profound ignorance about the failure of yeshivas, as well as profound ignorance about his own city’s public schools, which have produced Nobel Prize winners and generations of scientists, scholars, business leaders, performers, professionals, and other successful people.

The private yeshivas for the children of Hasidic Orthodox Jews have been criticized by an organization of some of their graduates called Young Advocates for a Fair Education for failing to teach English and other subjects, leaving graduates unprepared for life.

The New York Times reported that the city’s yeshivas had received over $1 billion in public funding but were academic failures. Typically, they don’t take state tests, but when one of the larger Hasidic schools administered the state tests in reading and math, every student failed.

This was “failure “by design,” said the Times.

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The story about Mayor Adams’ obsequious speech to Modern Orthodox leaders was reported by a newspaper called Shtetl:

In a speech given Wednesday night, mayor Eric Adams suggested that yeshiva students are better off than public school students, and that religion should be in schools “anywhere possible.”

The speech was given at an event for Teach NYS, which is part of the Orthodox Union, which represents Modern Orthodox Jews. In it, Adams condemned yeshiva critics, but made no distinction between Hasidic and Modern Orthodox schools. A September report from the New York Times found that many Hasidic yeshivas fail to provide an adequate secular education, to the point where some boys graduate high school without speaking fluent English. The Times also found that teachers at some Hasidic yeshivas regularly use corporal punishment.

In 2015, New York City’s education department announced it would investigate complaints about the quality of secular education in Hasidic schools. (The complaint did not include Modern Orthodox schools, which generally provide a thorough secular education.) In January, the state education department ordered that the city complete its investigation no later than June 30, including specific reviews of individual schools.

The mayor began his speech by painting a grim picture of the secular world. He described problems that children across the city and country face, such as cannabis and fentanyl use, harmful use of social media, and mental illness, suggesting that yeshiva students don’t have these problems.

“The children are in a state of despair at an epic proportion, but instead of us focusing on how do we duplicate the success of improving our children, we attack the yeshivas that are providing a quality education that is embracing our children,” he said.

“I saw numbers just the other day, asking questions about what is happening at our yeshivas across the city and state. At the same time, 65% of Black and brown children never reach proficiency in the public school system,” Adams said, citing a statistic that he uses often in speeches. “We’re asking what are you doing in your schools. We need to ask, what are we doing wrong in our schools, and learn what you are doing in yeshivas to improve education.”

“We need to be duplicating what you are achieving,” he said.

Adams also discussed the role of religion in government.

“Let’s embrace those that believe in the quality of this country and the quality of this state, and uplift families, and children, and education, and that appreciate the religious philosophies that are a part of the educational opportunities,” he said. “I don’t apologize for believing in God.”

“Faith is who we are,” Adams added. “We are a country of faith and belief, and we should have it anywhere possible to educate and to help uplift our children in the process.”

“You were there for me when I ran for mayor,” Adams concluded, to loud applause. “I’m going to be there for you as your mayor.”

In City Council District 44, which includes most of Hasidic Boro Park, 56% of voters picked Republican Curtis Sliwa in the 2021 mayoral election.

On election night in 2021, Mayor-elect Adams was surrounded by prominent supporters on the podium, including leaders of the Hasidic community.

A man who knows so little about yeshivas or public schools or the reasons for separation of church and state should not be in control of the New York City public school system.