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Forward 50 2015

Naftuli Moster

It took a product of the ultra-Orthodox school system to get New York City to investigate the quality of secular education at the city’s ultra-Orthodox schools.

Following a campaign by Naftuli Moster, 29, founder and executive director of an activist group called YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education), New York City’s Department of Education announced this year that it would look into complaints about the lack of adequate secular studies at dozens of yeshivas for ultra-Orthodox boys.

As a teen, Moster, who grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family in Brooklyn’s Boro Park, attended a yeshiva affiliated with the Belz Hasidic sect. Now holding a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College, he told The New York Times in 2014 that he had never heard the word “molecule” until his last year in college.

City officials announced in July that they would launch investigations of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in response to a letter sent by Moster’s group, which complained about inadequate secular studies in 39 schools.

Since then the status and the nature of the investigations have grown unclear. The New York Jewish Week reported in October that the city’s Department of Education said it was approaching the yeshivas as “supporters” rather than “inspectors.”

Moster isn’t satisfied. “To me, it’s just plain infuriating,” he told the paper.

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