HASIDIC FACTION BLASTS PATAKI ;
400 RALLY TO OPPOSE STATE-FUNDED SCHOOL
KATHLEEN SAMPEY, The Associated Press
NEW YORK; August 13, 1997; WEDNESDAY;
Some 400 members of a dissident sect of Orthodox Jews gathered
Tuesday outside Gov. George Pataki’s Manhattan offices to protest a law
setting up a state-funded school district for disabled children from the
Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel in Orange County.
The dissident group says it opposes the creation of the public
school district for religious reasons. State and federal courts have
struck down earlier legislation because it violated the separation of
church and state.
Both the mayor and the religious leader of Kiryas Joel asked Pataki
to let the school district become public.
Chanting in Yiddish and carrying signs that read,”Jews Resist
Secularization,” and”Faith and Torah is Not for Sale,”the group
huddled behind police barricades at the midtown office.
“It’s a disgrace to God. It’s a disgrace to our religion,”said
Joseph Waldman, a protest organizer who is also a candidate for the
county legislature.”There are thousands in the Hasidic community who
are against this. The governor stabbed us in the back.”
The school was established 10 years ago and has been trying to
secure state funding ever since. Community leaders say handicapped
children now have no access to the rigorous religious education required
of observant Jews.
Pataki on Monday signed a bill into law creating the Kiryas Joel
Union Free School District to accommodate disabled Hasidic children. The
bill frees up state funds for facilities and teachers.
“Governor Pataki signed this because he believes it’s in the best
interest of schoolchildren,”said gubernatorial spokesman Michael
Kiryas Joel is largely composed of Orthodox Jews from the Satmar
sect. Waldman and others have formed a dissident faction to Kiryas Joel
Mayor Abraham Wieder and the community’s Grand Rabbi, Moses Teitelbaum.
Over the years, there have been charges of fraud and reports of
violent clashes between the two groups. Wieder, a staunch supporter of the school’s new status, says the 200
or so handicapped children in the community attend Satmar parochial
schools for a part of the day and are therefore not deprived of a
In a statement, Wieder praised the governor and state legislature
for their”strength and sensitivity.”
He declined to comment on Waldman’s remarks.
The law creating the district was struck down twice, by the state’s
highest court earlier this year and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989,
on grounds that it violated constitutional guarantees of separation of
church and state.
The governor expects no more court challenges, McKeon said. The new
law”should correct those issues”raised in lawsuits, he added.
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