Eric Adams Defends Yeshivas' “Different Methods" and "Different Texts"
By Yehudit Garmaise
“I have only visited Israel twice, but I visit Brooklyn every day,” Borough President of Brooklyn Eric Adams said to BoroPark24 on Friday, as he described his long-standing warm relationships with the people who live in the Jewish neighborhoods in his borough.
When Adams, who is running for mayor, was asked to elaborate on his comment to Hamodia that “we have to create one standard of education,” he took the time to clarify his point.
What Adams meant to say, he told BoroPark24, was that educational models are not “one-size-fit-all.”
“Children have a right to receive the best education, and not all communities, and not all parents take the same approach,” Adams said. “So, it is really essential that the government works with different communities and cultures to adopt structures that reach communities’ needs so that we can really deliver the best education.”
One way that Adams proposed facilitating understanding the educational needs and values of different communities is to “appoint community ambassadors who understand local educational issues to serve as intermediaries between the schools and the city,” said the mayoral candidate, who explained that the ambassadors would be comprised of religious leaders and educators who help City Hall to be more “culturally sensitive.”
Speaking of cultural sensitivity, BoroPark24 asked Adams why he thinks that progressives frequently promote diversity and respecting different cultural viewpoints, but yet show a disrespect for the Jewish mesora by issuing educational requirements for yeshivas to fall in line with the values and curricula of public schools.
“That is a great question,” Adams said. “What I believe is that [most New Yorkers] view the Chassidic community from outside.
“I, [however,] have spent so much time in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Boro Park. When [one is] among a particular group, among of the millions of diverse groups in the city and the state, [one can] really understand those things that are important to each group.”
Responding to a comment that yeshivas are the most important institutions of our communities and that the freedom to learn in yeshivas without interference or violence is the reason why so many Orthodox Jews have immigrated to New York, Adams showed he was listening attentively.
“You stated that yeshiva education is crucial to your communities and important to support,” Adams stated in agreement. “We want to get the best outcomes of students and not rely on heavy-handed investigations that lead to distrust.”
Referring to investigations, Adams seemed to be alluding to the draconian requirements that have been issued by the Department of Education in recent years.
“We have to really look at the state and revisit this entire education conversation,” Adams said. “Parents and communities should come together and resolve these issues around education.
“We can find a better solution if we don’t become heavy-handed in the process.”
Research reveals that many various forms of learning are taking place throughout the state, said Adams, who served in the NYPD from 1984 to 2006.
“It is time for the state and the Department of Education to reexamine the different methods of learning and comprehension,” Adams insisted.
When Adams referred to the many rules “that are coming from the state,” BoroPark24 asked him whether he felt that the mayor of New York City has any latitude in deciding whether to enforce any state requirements that he might feel are biased or unfair.
“I think the mayor has latitude in two ways,” Adams said. “Number One: the mayor has to use his bully pulpit [his position of power] to go to Albany and really compel the state Department of Education to really reexamine this and engage in a real conversation with people on the ground.
“We need to compel the state to look at how it is implementing [educational requirements]. We need to [ask the state,] ‘Are they looking at the ways people are learning in a real way?’
“Second, [we need] to be as supportive as possible with the local municipalities, such as New York City to again, to sit down with those ambassadors [I want to appoint] and community leaders and show how we are getting the educational outcomes we are looking for.”
As Brooklyn’s “Beep” since 2014, Adams said that he has many friends who have gone to yeshiva, who are “knowledgeable, and they have gone on to successful careers.”
“They have read [many] texts; [not every reading material] has to be Shakespeare,” said Adams, who added that, “The overwhelming number of yeshivas” are providing excellent educations.
“Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes, we take so much off the table that we are not giving full benefits to our young people.”
Does Eric Adams have the chutzpah to fight against the bias of those advocates of education reform who think that children cannot learn how to think critically and later become productive and successful professionals who contribute considerably to society without public school standbys, such as English literature and geometry?
“Remember,” Adams responded, “I am the guy who talks about changing summer schools to be a more learning experience. Rote learning is going to be re-examined. Right now, you need critical-thinking skills: those are the jobs and professions of the future.
“We should be leaning into all of the various schools’ formats, programs, and [be thinking] how do we come up with a better product?”