NJ Gives Millions to Jewish School

The Chris Christie administration in New Jersey has approved a grant worth over $10 million to an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbinical school to build a new library and other buildings, as part of a larger bill that funds construction projects at the states colleges and universities.

When the final list was released last week, one of the biggest — and perhaps most surprising — winners was Beth Medrash Govoha, a 70-year-old, all-male, orthodox Jewish rabbinical school in Lakewood. It was awarded $10.6 million in taxpayer funds for a new library and academic center, among the highest designated for a private institution.

But the seeds for Beth Medrash Govoha’s success were sown long before the administration began scoring applications. A Star-Ledger review of records shows the college used some political muscle to persuade Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers to make last-minute changes to the bill last year to help it get a piece of the pie.

The head of the school, Rabbi Aaron Kotler, is an influential leader in Lakewood’s large orthodox Jewish community and traveled with Christie to Israel last year. After supporting Christie’s challenger in 2009, Kotler and other orthodox leaders endorsed the governor this year. The school also hired a leading lobbyist to make its case with lawmakers.

Believe it or not, some people have a problem with this:

Now the state’s top Assembly Democrat says she is concerned about public dollars going to a college with admission standards she says resemble a “religious test.” Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said students who want to go to the college must speak Hebrew, know the sacred texts and agree not to date within the first six months of schooling.

“I will tell you that I am extremely surprised by this,” Oliver said. “This is not a secondary institution that is open to the general public.”

Oliver sees a distinction between Beth Medrash Govoha — known in Hebrew as a yeshiva — and private Catholic schools like Seton Hall University and St. Peter’s University that she says should qualify for public money.

“Seton Hall is open to anyone — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. They have an open admission process, and any student in New Jersey can attend.” Oliver said. “Not every student can attend the yeshiva.”

The school also refuses to admit women. The legislature has 60 days to stop this from happening. I hope they do.

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  • steve84

    A Catholic school is provides a real education. A rabbinical school only teaches the Torah

  • arthurski

    That’s OK to give public money to a jewish school.

    Giving money to a muslim school, now that would clearly be an anticonstitutional outrage.

  • Didn’t Obama Hussein Obama say that he wanted everybody to go to college? I thought you Liberals were for education?

    Look, Beth Medrash Govoha just wants to be known for more than their NCAA basketball team. Is that so wrong?

  • Abby Normal

    Arthurski @2, if you’re making a general point about how the prevalence of anti-Islam sentiment in the US, right on. If you mean Christie specifically, I must say I’ve not seen that from him. On the contrary, I’ve seen him stand up for Muslims and blast his own party for their “crazy” fear mongering.

  • arthurski

    Abbie, the minute any muslim school fills an application to receive funding under the same criteria than anyone else, then the crazies will show themselves and invent 1 million reasons why a muslim school cannot receive State funds.

    You know: because.

  • @3

    I think you didn’t notice that women aren’t allowed to go to this school.

    Or perhaps you just don’t care.

    Troll Hussein Troll

  • @rickdesper #6 – Modusoperandi is not a troll; he (?) is our resident expert on Poe’s Law.

  • rickdesper, why would women want to go to school? Schools lead to careers, and careers lead to not being at home, supporting the Ideal Family Unit. Didn’t Phyllis Schlafly, former model, graduate of both Radcliffe College (M.A.) and Washington University Law School (J.D.), employee of the American Enterprise Institute, twice unelected politician, author and radio host, teach you anything?

  • kantalope

    @7 expert? Modus is our Poe-tentate. And our Poe-tential Savior – the only reason he has not become our actual savior is because no on dares to cross him.

  • gertzedek

    Frum Jewish women have separate schools, Beis Yaakovs, which are arguably better than yeshivas…they teach enough secular subjects to barely get by in the modern world, at least. Yeshiva boys aren’t taught math, science, English (or even modern Hebrew), or civics. Honestly, they’re barely even taught the Tanach (Jewish bible). It’s all Talmud, all the time.

    Calling this a rabbinical school is debatably overstating its usefulness — one could become an Orthodox rabbi out of yeshiva, but most yeshiva bochurs won’t — most of these Lakewood frumma will go on to kollel to sit on their asses and study Torah their whole lives, forcing their wives to support the family while taking care of the children. Their rebbes use their flocks as a bloc vote, manipulating politicians by threatening to order their congregation to vote against them. The likelihood that this sort of school is open to all Jews, let alone the general public, is negligible — most likely, even liberal Orthodox Jews wouldn’t be considered observant enough, let alone Conservative or Reform.

    Coincidentally, whether the government should continue to fund ultra-Orthodox yeshivas that won’t teach secular subjects is a huge controversy in Israel right now.

  • blorf

    @9 I thought he said he’s just a Poe boy from a Poe family?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … students who want to go to the college must … agree not to date within the first six months of schooling.

    This must be because the first semester includes intensive classes on contraception, foreplay techniques, and Kegel exercises.