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Jan 12 2012

Liars For Yahweh! This is Happening in MY Town!

For the past year, I’ve been part of a group of residents here in my own little town, Highland Park, NJ, who have been fighting the opening of a Hebrew Language (read: taxpayer funded free Jewish education) charter school.

I was part of what we called our “documentation committee,” a committee formed at one of many meetings held to discuss how we were going to stop this school, which is overwhelmingly opposed by the residents of our town. What our committee did was to thoroughly examine the school’s charter application, and what we found can only be described as a big fat pack of lies. The application claimed the support of people who did not support the school, misrepresented where people lived, claimed to have a location for the school that they did not have, and invented a completely ludicrous secular reason that the school was necessary — that the teaching of Hebrew is vital to America’s national interests because America does business with Israel (although the official business language of Israel is English).

Unbelievably, this school, although already rejected by our state three times, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the federal government, and may still open, as the New York Times reported earlier this week.

Rejected 3 Times, School May Still Open Soon, and With a Grant, Too

“In the last couple of years, Sharon Akman, a real estate agent, applied to the state of New Jersey three times to open a new charter school in the Highland Park area, to be called Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School.

“Each time, she was rejected.

“Then on Oct. 6, one week after the state’s most recent rejection, the United States Education Department announced that it had approved a $600,000 grant to finance Ms. Akman’s proposed charter.

“It would have taken federal officials just a few phone calls to determine that there were many good reasons for the state to have rejected Ms. Akman’s applications.

“For one thing, they have been full of misrepresentations.

“Ms. Akman, who declined to comment for this column, writes that the charter school would be located in St. Mary of Mount Virgin Church in New Brunswick, even though the bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, Paul G. Bootkoski, has repeatedly said that the building is not available.”

Read the full New York Times article here.

For my part on our documentation committee, I did exactly what anyone familiar with my other work would expect me to do — I checked out the sources cited by the school’s founders to support their ridiculous ‘teaching Hebrew is vital to our national interests’ claim. And what I found, of course, was that they had misquoted and misrepresented the sources they cited.

This was my debunking of those lies, which will give you an idea of just how deceptive these Liars For Yahweh are being in their attempt to get their school approved:

As soon as I get the files together, I’ll be posting our committee’s full report, containing, among other things, all of the letters from the people who were lied about in the school’s application stating that they did not support the school as the application claimed, and the letter from  the Diocese of Metuchen stating that the school did not have the location it claimed to have secured (having a location secured is a prerequisite for approval).

One of the letters in the report we prepared was written to New Jersey’s acting Education Commissioner by Highland Park Rabbi Steven Miodownik, who is not being fooled one bit about the real motives of the charter school’s founders.

From the rabbi’s letter:

“Proponents of the Hebrew language charter school have carefully placed a fig leaf over their agenda of forcing the state to fund their ‘free’ alternative to private Jewish education, but it is not the job of the State of New Jersey to provide religious instruction for its children; that must be left up to our excellent private schools.”

The January 17 date for final decision on the current application of the Tikun Olam charter school is looming, so if you feel so inclined, please make your voice heard by visiting www.speakuphp.org for contact information and sample letters for both the New Jersey Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    You guys do more business with Canada, so where’s the French school?

  2. 2
    Pierce R. Butler

    Anyone looking realistically at America’s future geopolitical language needs would be advocating schools to teach Spanish and Chinese.

  3. 3
    grumpyoldfart

    What our committee did was to thoroughly examine the school’s charter application, and what we found can only be described as a big fat pack of lies
    [...]
    Unbelievably, this school, although already rejected by our state three times, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the federal government

    Scammers getting money from the US Government.
    Unbelievable !?

  4. 4
    Cliff Hendroval

    Just out of curiosity, are the people pushing this Hasidic or some other ultra-Orthodox group? They are notorious for getting government funding for ultimately religious purposes.

  5. 5
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Sure, just like in British schools they teach the children Gealic so they will be able to talk to their Irish neighbors.

    And they teach the Irish children Latin so they can speak to the descendants of Roman settlers on the island next door.

    Oh, and Israeli children are taught Cherokee so they can speak to their close political allies, the Americans.

    Really it all makes perfect sense.

  6. 6
    Pinky

    It might be effective to give the information about the $600,000 federal Education Department grant to a rabid Teabag group so they can go after the person(s) who let out the grant.

    Another angle is to give the information to a Republican presidential candidate, say Ron Paul who pledges to close the Education Department if elected and let him make noise about it.

    Of course that only solves one aspect of this problem.

    “An enemy of an enemy is a friend.”

  7. 7
    aussieseculardad

    In Adelaide, the rabbi who converted my wife to Judaism was accused of fabricating the existence of an entire school so that he and his wife could get government grants. The authorities only cottoned onto it after calling the parent of one of the enrolled students on an unrelated matter. The parents had never heard of the school.

  8. 8
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    “An enemy of an enemy is a friend.”

    Only as long as you have a common enemy.

  9. 9
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Because there are not enough people fluent in Hebrew already?

    You have got to be yanking my chain. That right there is enough to pooh-pooh public funding for such an enterprise.

    It’s amazing who the government will and won’t help. In the most charitable light, this is the cartoon definition of bureaucracy.

  10. 10
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    The department hires private consultants to rate the quality of a charter applicant, but those consultants “cannot use information not included in the grant application,” he said.

    Oh fuck you, government. Fuck you. Fuck a bunch of this.

    So, what are you supposed to do when your head goes through the desk and comes out the other side?

  11. 11
    Gregory in Seattle

    The Washington legislature has a bill right now that would allow charter schools in our state. We were just slapped down — hard — by the state Supreme Court for failure to properly fund public education, and the lawmakers want to create publicly funded private schools?

    The only time I ever hear about charter schools is when crap like this occurs; it seems the sole purpose of charter schools is to allow religious groups to indoctrinate kids in their hate and superstitious nonsense. Is there any possible reason why I should support charter schools?

  12. 12
    ogremk5

    We had similar things happen with charter schools in Texas. I’d be willing to bet that the result here is the same thing that happened in Texas. As soon as some of the money is disbursed, the charter school and proponents vanish, never to be heard from again.

    We had one charter school that got something like 2 million dollars in grants and loans to buy land, build a building, buy books, hire teachers and staff, etc. All this over a 2 year period. Then the ‘owners’ vanished having never bought land or books, built a school, or hired anyone.

  13. 13
    maxpeterson

    Do you have any evidence that there will be religious education involved?

  14. 14
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    @#6
    Maxim 29: “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.”
    Ron Paul is a a proponent of dangerous and delusional ideas, and I facepalm every time I hear of him advocating for a position that I favor, because being associated with him is on a level with being associated with Lyndon LaRouche as far as people taking you seriously goes.

  15. 15
    canadianchick

    maxpeterson: while I’m sure Ms. Akman has carefully ensured no mention of religious education in the applications, the fact that the school would be called Tikkun Olam is a good sign – a phrase which means ‘to repair the world’ and is foundational as both an ethical and a ritualistic mitzvah. While it is used by Jewish secular social action groups as well as religious groups, it is a very religious Jewish concept.

    add to that the fact that the public schools already offer kosher meals and there us already a Hebrew teacher in the public school system, 2+2=religious school

  16. 16
    danielfoster

    This is a great reminder of how all religious denominations are capable of insidious attempts at injecting themselves in our society.

    In my city of Greensboro, NC we recently used democracy to uphold the separation of church and state. The former Christian mayor had decided he would start opening government meetings with prayer because he believes it is a “distinctly American quality.” As a response, a handful of citizens issued statements asking that the inclusive moment of silence be reinstated.

    And we won. The divisive mayor was ousted and the new mayor reinstated it. Check out more info on this victory here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD1DGlzjEfo

    and here is our more detailed blog write-up:

    http://uncgatheists.blogspot.com/2012/01/civic-engagement-pays-off-new-mayor-of.html

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