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Hasidic schools are exploiting special education funding, says latest New York Times probe of yeshivas



(JTA) — Hasidic schools in New York are taking advantage of a policy designed to make special education more widely available by siphoning public funding for other purposes, according to an investigation published Thursday by the New York Times. 

Private companies serving Hasidic and Orthodox schools are now collecting more than $350 million a year in government money in exchange for special education services that are not always needed or even provided, the Times reported, citing government data.  

The schools, known as yeshivas, have reportedly urged parents to obtain medical prescriptions for disabilities and apply for aid on behalf of their children. In 25 yeshivas, more than half the students are qualified to receive special education services, the Times reported, citing government data. The newspaper also reported that of the 18,000 applications for special ed services filed by families last year, more than half came from districts with large Hasidic and Orthodox communities, such as Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights.

The Times said there is “little research into whether disabilities occur more frequently in the Hasidic community than in others.”

Elana Sigall, a former special education official for the city, told the Times that yeshivas are “accessing tremendous amounts of city resources, but they’re not actually providing special education.”

The Times’ article is the latest in a series of stories about yeshivas that have triggered intense anger among haredi leaders and relief among longtime advocates for improving secular education at the private religious schools. The series started in September when the Times reported that yeshivas were failing to provide secular education as mandated by state law while continuing to collect public funding.

Many Hasidic Jews took to social media to attack the Times’ reporting as defamatory and accused the newspaper of placing undue scrutiny on the Hasidic community out of bigotry or political considerations.

Advocates for reforming yeshiva education, meanwhile, have defended the Times’ investigations as a necessary step toward forcing the schools to change. 

The latest article explains that a policy shift unlocking a wave of funding for special education was enacted in 2014 by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ordered that the city fast-track approvals. De Blasio was responding to criticism that the city was failing to adhere to state law requiring that students with disabilities be provided with special education even if the government has to pay private companies to deliver the services. 

One such company, started two months after de Blasio’s order by a young married Orthodox couple with almost no experience in education, has collected more than $38 million from the program this year, per the Times. The Times also found evidence that companies providing special education services for private schools in turn make donations to the yeshivas that steer students their way.

The deluge in special education requests has not been accompanied increased oversight: Officials interviewed by Times said that most requests are simply waved through an over-burdened and underfunded system. 

School officials and representatives of the special education companies said in statements to the Times that they have operated according to the rules, and that independent evaluators and government supervision ensure that only students who in fact have special needs are being enrolled in the program. The school officials also denied that they have pressured families to seek out diagnoses that aren’t needed.

The post Hasidic schools are exploiting special education funding, says latest New York Times probe of yeshivas appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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