The New York Times seems to be on a journalistic crusade to discredit New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities, particularly Hasidic ones. The centerpiece of the NYT campaign is its “investigation” of wrongdoing in and by Hasidic schools, the results of which were initially described in a 6000-word article splashed across the newspaper’s front page on September 11, 2022.
The article was not restricted to merely criticizing the education offered by these schools but implied that Hasidic and Orthodox Jews are diverting resources from worthier New York public school students in order to generously bankroll their own students – a serious, albeit unproven, allegation that fosters a sense of grievance against that community. The NYCLU, for example, lost no time following the publication of the NYT article to tweet about “extract[ing] resources from public schools, which are almost entirely attended by students of color, in order to lavishly fund yeshivas attended by white students.” (See: “NYT-Style Advocacy journalism Fuels Antisemitism”)
Since then, the NYT has published and/or posted nine additional articles or features about its study, plus an 1800-word editorial, all taking aim at Hasidic schools, or yeshivot. In addition, the newspaper ran an article about the “outsized political clout” of the Hasidic community and posted an online appeal inviting readers to share their “stories” about Hasidic schools, for a total of 13 items in four months alleging or implying wrongdoing by the Hasidic community.
The latest denunciation of the beleaguered minority came in yet another front-page article (the 3rd on the topic to be featured on the front page) that appeared on December 29, 2022, entitled “How Hasidic Schools Reaped a Windfall of Education Funding.”
It carried the same theme and message – namely, that Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities are fraudulently grabbing funding from the government and depriving more deserving individuals from the resources to which they’re entitled. A look at the subsequent letters-to-the-editor section makes it abundantly clear that the overarching, desired message – even if not explicitly spelled out – was immediately understood and accepted as truth by readers.
In fact, neither the latest article nor earlier ones – once stripped of their innuendo – provide the evidence to support the desired message. For example:
- The recent article notes that “Dozens of schools in the Orthodox community have pushed parents to get their children diagnosed with disabilities, records and interviews show.”
But this hardly proves fraudulent behavior. It is neither uncommon nor undesirable for responsible, attentive schoolteachers in any school, public or private, to urge parents to have their children tested when they suspect a student is not keeping up with the class or with age expectations. The article provides no indication or comparison of how often this occurs in non-Hasidic schools.
- According to the recent report, the NYT investigation “found that at 25 of the city’s approximately 160 Hasidic yeshivas, more than half of the students are classified as needing special education.” The article goes on to note that “across all city schools, one in five students is classified as having a disability,” as a comparison to the “more than half” of students in the small sample (15.6%) of Hasidic schools they reported on.
Not mentioned is what proportion of students are classified as having disabilities in the other 84.4% of Hasidic schools. Nor is there any indication of whether the small sample size of schools that did record a higher proportion of students classified with disabilities are schools that cater to students with difficulties, who might not have been accepted at other educational institutions.
Indeed, if the majority of Hasidic schools not examined or reported on by the NYT have a lower incidence of students with disabilities, then the proportion of such students in Hasidic schools overall would be significantly lower, and likely more in line with the 1 in 5 statistic that was cited.
Did the investigators compare individual non-Hasidic schools – either public or private – to compare the proportions of students with disabilities across different schools? Can they rule out that some non-Hasidic schools had much higher rates of students with disabilities than others, with the overall average across all schools averaging 1 in 5?
In the absence of this context, the numbers cited in the article are meaningless, just innuendo meant to convey an overarching impression of wrongdoing.
- The article acknowledges that “the city does not regularly examine who files requests, what services they seek or how much each request costs.” The results that are cited to suggest that Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish schools are using more than their fair share of resources assert that “more than half of requests last year came from districts that include the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights — all heavily populated by Hasidic Jews — and Flatbush and Midwood, which are home to many Orthodox Jews.”
But these districts and neighborhoods are not limited to Hasidic or Orthodox Jews. And while it is true there are large concentrations of Hasidic Jews in the above-named neighborhoods, they nonetheless comprise an overall minority there, as do Orthodox Jews in Flatbush and Midwood. The authors are therefore unable to ascertain that all requests for special needs funding came exclusively from Hasidic or Orthodox Jews.
It is this type of shoddy research/reporting and unsupported conclusions that form a primary part of the NYT’s charges against Hasidic and Orthodox Jews.
The Times’ singular and intensive focus on the Hasidic community while ignoring all other demographics, as well as the newspaper’s amplification of its investigation in prominent, front-page stories, and expanded, repetitive coverage, greatly mars the newspaper’s investigation. Any legitimate concerns and findings about educational shortcomings in Hasidic schools or individual examples of wrongdoing are lost among the numerous cognitive biases of the investigation. These include:
- Sample Selection Bias – using as a primary source of information testimony from disgruntled individuals who have either left the Hasidic community because of their own personal grievances and/or who rejected the schooling they received.
- Confirmation bias – seeking information that confirms pre-existing beliefs about the Hasidic community while rejecting or ignoring other information that does not fit the desired narrative.
- Stereotyping – extrapolating and generalizing across an entire community without adequate evidence because of the belief and expectation that Orthodox Jews and Hasidim will behave in a certain way.
Then there are the large, colored photos, many of which have no relevance at all to the subject at hand, whose only purpose seem to be to depict identifiable Jews. For example, the following photo was taken at a large, annual Conference for thousands of Chabad emissaries from around the world who gathered in November at the Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights.
The photo had nothing whatsoever to do with special education or Hasidic schools, but the caption referred to a “surge in requests for special education services in private schools that has overwhelmed the city’s system.”
The disturbing message that is conveyed by the newspaper and absorbed by its readers fuels resentment of Jews, feeding directly into ancient antisemitic tropes of Jewish greed, power and appropriation. It is no wonder the Agudath Israel, an advocacy group for Orthodox Jews, has launched a counter-campaign to combat the New York Times’ messaging about Hasidic and other Orthodox Jews.
Over the past two years, antisemitism has surged across the U.S. The most recent ADL annual audit of antisemitic incidents (released April 2022, for the year 2021), shows an all-time high. The recorded manifestations of antisemitism include hate rhetoric; the dissemination of antisemitic literature; online and in-person curses; threats; vandalism; arson; and most concerning of all, physical assaults on Jews.
The highest number of assaults on Jews occurred in New York, and the majority of victims were Hasidim and other Orthodox Jews, identifiable by their conspicuous Jewish garb. According to ADL’s tracker of antisemitic incidents, the number of physical assaults on New York Jews in 2022 is poised to exceed the record high of 2021. And the targets of these assaults are, as before, primarily Hasidim and identifiable Jews.
It is in this climate of accelerating antisemitism that the New York Times continues its campaign against these targeted communities. As we know from history, repercussions rarely stop there.
Thus the Times’ fixation on exposing wrongdoing in the Hasidic community without sufficient evidence, is not simply slipshod journalism. It is malicious, irresponsible and dangerous.
 A photo caption, for example, reads: “Money is flowing to private Hasidic schools at a time when New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, is cutting public school budgets.” For more examples, see NYT-Style Advocacy journalism Fuels Antisemitism)
 Excerpt from letter, published on Jan. 4, 2023: “A few months ago, The Times published an article about how the Hasidim in New York City were failing to provide basic instruction in the state’s elementary and high school curriculums. We now learn that they are labeling so many of their children disabled in a bid to obtain state and federal special education funds to augment their inferior schools and unjustly enrich their community. This fraudulent conduct takes scarce resources from the truly needy disabled children in other schools.”