A Cynical Giveaway

Editorial

Published April 06, 2011, issue of April 15, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

They’re cheering in Kiryas Joel and other ultra-Orthodox enclaves in New York over a new provision in the state’s otherwise austere and demanding budget for 2011-2012. But the governor, the legislature and the Jewish leaders who pushed for this special-interest giveaway ought to be ashamed of themselves.

At the same time that public colleges and universities were handed a 10% cut in state aid, the legislature managed to find $18 million a year for tuition for needy students who attend private religious schools. But not just any student. And not just any school.

Even though the state’s Tuition Assistance Program is supposed to aid students in accredited schools of higher education with a grant of up to $5,000 a year, the new budget plan contains a provision allowing TAP funds to flow to seminary students in undergraduate programs, even those not chartered by the state’s Board of Regents. But most seminaries, Jewish and non-Jewish, only accept students who have completed college. So who might apply for this new money?

“The way the rules were written, they were pretty much designed” for the undergraduate yeshivas, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo told The New York Times.

Think there are many Reform Jews in those undergraduate yeshivas? Many women?

The lawmakers, rabbis and lobbyists who have been pushing for this change for a decade argue that it’s legal, and that’s probably true, since they took great pains to write a law that funnels the money to the student, not the school, and therefore likely passes constitutional muster in its narrowest interpretation.

They also argue that it’s a matter of fairness, addressing an injustice that penalized students just because they attend yeshivas. But the laws of our government are supposed to have a secular purpose, and taxpayer money is not supposed to directly promote religious education — especially when it has a built-in gender bias. If a particular Jewish community, or an individual, believed in the necessity of ensuring that needy yeshiva students receive enough financial aid to study, well then donate the money privately.

When now-Governor Cuomo campaigned in Kiryas Joel last fall, he was videotaped sitting at a table with the community’s spiritual leader, Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum, surrounded by an arc of bearded men who cheered and nodded in approval when he spoke of his support for this TAP expansion. After the rebbe is shown waving his hands expansively, his translator bent toward Cuomo and said: “The rebbe says it’s not only for Kiryas Joel. The rebbe’s not prejudiced. He wants it for everybody.”

Everybody? Really?


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.