And Elana Knopp:Where I come from, girls are married off as teenagers to men they barely know and are expected to spend their lives caring for their husband and children. They are required to cover their hair and nearly every inch of their skin, and to remain behind a curtain at parties and religious events.Where I come from, if a woman wants to feel her hair blow in the wind or wear jeans or attend college, the courts have the authority to take her children away from her.Where I come from, you might be surprised to learn, is the United States. Specifically, New York and then New Jersey, in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Lakewood. Where have I read about Lakewood before? Could it be that Lakewood is right at the heart of the voucher debate in New Jersey?I was typical in my former community. I was married at 19 and had my first baby at 20. By 29, I had six children, one miscarriage, three sets of dishes and no college degree. It took me years to get up the courage to file for divorce. I was so afraid for so many reasons. There were the usual concerns, such as how I would manage to support my kids, put air in my tires and mow my lawn.But it was the fear unique to ultra-orthodox women who leave the faith that haunted me: I was afraid of losing my children.In Lakewood, as in any ultra-orthodox community, there is a rabbinic hierarchy, a hierarchy committed to a radical religious doctrine that controls every aspect of life — from politics and marriage to female modesty, birth control and sex. It is this same hierarchy that condones the kidnapping of children from women who have left the fold.It took me years to get up the courage to take off my head covering and even longer to leave my house in a pair of pants. And, when I did, my closest friends and neighbors turned against me. I was systematically shut out, ostracized and vilified. In addition, because of my decision to live a truthful, genuine life, my community set out on a witch hunt, spreading rumors, fabricating lies and portraying me as something resembling a she-devil.There is no place for anyone who deviates from what the ultra-orthodox community believes to be the norm, the correct and the righteous. There is no room if you are irreligious, intermarried, gay, transsexual. There is no room for questions, doubts, opinions or alternatives. There is no room to question authority. And I questioned authority. [emphasis mine]
Let me be clear: America is a land of religious freedom. No one should be coerced into any religion, but adults are free to practice their faith and raise their children in its tenets.Based on the Census ACS data from a few years back, there were over 17,000 privately schooled students in Lakewood, and OVER 10,400 OF THOSE STUDENTS WERE IN FAMILIES THAT REPORTED THEMSELVES AS BEING BELOW THE 250% POVERTY-INCOME THRESHOLD!Recall that Newark had about 2,000 low income private school enrolled children.Orange/East Orange combined have under 900.All of the cities around Asbury Park combined about 400 (meaning that Asbury Park alone is likely much less).Camden about 1,300Elizabeth about 1,000The entire area (several towns/districts) around Perth Amboy about 1,000 (meaning that Perth Amboy is likely only a fraction of that amount)And again, Lakewood, over 10,000! (and Passaic, another significant amount)In other words, all of the other locations combined do not have the sum total of low income private school enrolled children that Lakewood has. Lakewood would likely be the epicenter of NJOSA scholarship distribution. I noted in my first post on this topic that if the average scholarship amounts were as proposed, the Lakewood Yeshiva schools would stand to take in as much as $67 million per year in these indirect taxpayer subsidies.
Taxpayers, however, should not be asked to subsidize this indoctrination. The teaching of the values Reiss and Knopp now oppose should never be funded by the state and its citizens.
Before Chris Christie tries to sell vouchers again, he should have to explain why New Jersey is well-served by promoting religious values in state-funded schools. And he should have to make the case for using taxpayer funds to teach these specific values, which are predicated on the disempowerment of women.
It's not enough to say that the Supreme Court has ruled that vouchers are constitutional; the real question is whether scarce tax dollars should be used to promote religious values some find repugnant.