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Op-Ed

Has the Battle to Save Torah Education Become the Fight of Our Generation?

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Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Many activists are saying that the new state guidelines are an attempt to quash Torah education. They may well be right, but not in the way they claim. Far more dangerously, their clear goal (as per Section 801a of the education bill) is to introduce and normalize sexual practices that a Jew is commanded to give their lives in not to engage in.

For a country, the most important defense is knowing who the enemy is and where and how they will attack. Knowing the enemy is not enough. One must also know where they are attacking. Mistakenly thinking they are attacking the wrong location can lead to defeat. This is even more true when the opposing force purposely misleads its opponents, like, Baruch Hashem, the Allies did on D-Day, when the enemy expected them to attack at Pas-de-Calais instead of the Beaches of Normandy.

As Jews, more than anyone else, we must also know who our enemy is, and just as importantly, know where and how they plan to attack. As we declare every year in the Haggadah, “Not only once did they try to destroy us, rather in every single generation they stand up and try to destroy us, but G-d saves us.” When it comes to a physical threat, our enemies are apparent and one does not need a reminder in order to be on guard. With the above statement, the Haggadah makes clear that the real threat is not a physical one, but a spiritual one. As the Haggadah continues, “go and learn from Lavan.” Lavan’s trying to destroy us was clearly a spiritual endeavor, not a physical one.

In 2010, NY passed a law amending section 801a of the Education Law that states, “the regents shall ensure that the course of instruction in grades kindergarten through twelve includes a component on civility, citizenship and character education.” and continues on, for the purposes of this section, ‘tolerance,’ ‘respect for others’ and ‘dignity’ shall include awareness and sensitivity to harassment, bullying, discrimination and civility in the relations of people of different …. sexual orientations, (trans)genders …..” While this law has no explicit exemption for private schools, it was interpreted for the past few years to not apply to them.

However, I knew back when this law was passed, it was only a matter of time that proponents would try to force it into all religious communities, especially yeshivas. As the last Mishna in Sotah says “beis vaad yeheh liznus–on the heels of Moshiach, the house of assembly shall turn into the house of iniquity.” It’s main statement precedes the above; “umalchus tihapech liminus veain tochachas–dominion shall turn to heresy, yet none rebuke it.”

As one of only a dozen or so people in New York State who has been actively fighting this law ever since it’s inception, I was very well aware that this law has no explicit exemption for private schools. To this end, I worked with others to get Bill A08310-2011, exempting private schools, to pass the Assembly twice and have been lobbying unsuccessfully for years to get this bill passed by the Senate and signed

This law in practice has directly led to things in classrooms that are so disgusting that even this paper, one that takes is responsibility to the informing the public stronger than possibly any other Jewish paper, doesn’t feel it can rightfully print it. Just to show you how dangerous these curricula are, just this week, the New York Post reported that in New York City nearly one in four teens, 23.6 percent, now identify in categories other than straight. If this is what only a few years of propaganda can accomplish, who knows what this can, G-d forbid, lead to in a decade’s time.

As we know, recently there were new guidelines issued for private schools. Included in them were mandated hours for secular studies which even surpassed the public school mandates. Yet this is not the main problem with these “guidelines.” What received little to no attention was something far more dangerous and sinister. In fact, I will wager that this was in fact the entire purpose for the new guidelines. Hidden in the tool kit was applying Education Law 801a, and thus it LGBT clause, to private schools. This move was so obvious to anyone who followed 801a, that as soon as I saw the way the tool kit was set up, I just had to search for 801a and I found it in the guidelines. There was never a doubt that this would turn up.

Yes, forcing yeshivas, to teach so much secular studies that there is no more time for Torah would be extremely dangerous, but that is not the fight of this generation or the real purpose of the bill. Chazal credit Bilaam for trying to stop the teaching of Torah to children (see Pesichta to Eicha Rabbah). However, Bilaam’s last and most dangerous move was spreading sexual immorality. Bilaam (who Targum Yonoson says was also Lavan), the worst enemy the Jews ever had in a spiritual sense, while advising Balak how to destroy us after all else failed, stated “I shall advise you what you should do to this nation in the end of days.”

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106a) says that Bilaam advised the entire plot of Baal Peor, telling Balak, “the G-d of (Israel) hates ‘zima’–sexual immorality.” It’s very telling that he prefaces with advice with the words “in the end of days,” utilizing a language that can be interpreted for today. Thus we see that Bilaam’s last hurrah, his most serious and dangerous one, is connected with sexual immorality. Stopping the teaching of Torah to children was his “Plan A.” It didn’t work and even strengthened us. Immorality would pervert us and could destroy us.

In our generation, the government has helped us with eruvim, not getting fired for keeping Shabbos and the right to perform bris milah. It’s inconceivable that they will actually try and push as a main attack a bill that nullifies time for Torah in yeshivas. However, in a generation in which the left has made homosexuality its new found idol, trying to force yeshivas to teach respect towards homosexuality is practically guaranteed.

We must remember that the leading politician Daniel Dromm (NYC councilman and LGBT activist) in an effort to try to get oversight over yeshivas wrote, “Yeshivas, private schools and parochial schools — unlike public schools — are not subject to Council oversight or much of the NYC Human Rights Law. Too often their leaders embrace homophobia, transphobia, and other horrific ideologies and subject our young people to them on a daily basis in the classroom. It is our duty to protect LGBTQ students in every school. We must not bankroll hate with tax dollars. Lamentably there is no mechanism in this legislation to prevent such a thing from happening.”

With that, he attempted to remove NYC security officers, sent only to protect and ensure the security of these schools, from serving there in any capacity.

Perverting our Torah is much worse than not teaching it altogether. If we accept homosexuality as a moral good, then there is no Torah, even more than if we stop teaching Torah altogether.

If we throw out all Mishpatim, the civic laws of religious observance (and all codifiers agree that refraining from homosexuality in all its forms is a clear Mishpat and rational law), then there is nothing left to Judaism. One must also realize that if G-d doesn’t dictate the rational civic laws, then all the more so, from where do the other mitzvos receive their Divine sanction? Are they nothing more than just superstitions, a Mezuzah to be rendered nothing more than a rabbit’s foot in the eyes of the masses, and Yom Kippur no more holy than International Talk Like a Pirate Day?

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