New York State Senator Salazar Punctures New York Times Hype on Corporal Punishment in Yeshivas
by Ira Stoll
The New York Times crusade against yeshivas has gone too far even for Julia Salazar, a New York state senator so “progressive” she boasts of “actively working to dismantle capitalist rule.”
Salazar’s relations with Jewish causes and Judaism over time have been convoluted and have been the topic of extensive previous reporting elsewhere. On the yeshiva story, though, she was at pains to distance herself from one of the Times reporters who has been investigating the Jewish schools.
“New York is poised to ban corporal punishment in private schools, following a New York Times investigation on Hasidic boys schools,” tweeted Times reporter Eliza Shapiro.
Salazar responded online to try to set the record straight. “To be clear: We introduced this bill because the law should *explicitly* ban corporal punishment in all schools. The use of physical or violent methods to ostensibly discipline students has happened in many schools. I haven’t seen any evidence of it being a pattern in yeshivas,” she said.
The hype that the legislation was a response to the Times investigation came not only in the social media post but in a Times subheadline: “The proposals from state legislators come in response to a New York Times investigation that reported the use of slaps and kicks to keep order in some Hasidic Jewish schools.”
Agudath Israel of America also pushed back against the Times effort to depict the yeshivas as abusive.
“The New York Times has misfired yet again in its latest attack on the Orthodox community,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. “Our yeshivas are positive, warm, learning environments which impart our traditions; that is why our parents choose them. The notion, painted by the Times, that children in yeshivas subsist in a cruel, abusive environment where they are ‘regularly hit, slapped or kicked by their instructors’ is simply untrue… they are actually far safer there than public school. Agudath Israel supports the new legislation to crack down on unwarranted corporal punishment in all schools, both public and private.”
The Albany Times-Union reported that from January 2016 through June 2021, the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations received 16,671 complaints alleging corporal punishment in public schools. The New York Times has focused zealously only on the yeshivas, and even there didn’t unearth much.
Two other members of the New York State legislature also chimed in to fault the Times for characterizing the legislation, and the conditions in the yeshivas, in a misleading way. New York State Senator Andrew Goundardes tweeted agreement with Salazar: “Our laws should not tolerate or accept corporal punishment in any school, period.”
And Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein said: “Correct, Senator. No corporal punishment at ANY school. As a yeshiva parent/former student, I’m not familiar with the use of corporal punishment at yeshivas, nor would I tolerate it Sadly, @nytimes needs to continue its onslaught against Orthodox Jews & prop up their mudslinging.”
Universities are heaping honors on the Times reporting. Long Island University gave it a George Polk Award. Harvard has named it a finalist for a Goldsmith Award and invited one of the reporters to a speak at an event March 8 at which a Kennedy School professor praised the work as a “model.” Columbia announces its Pulitzer prizes on May 8, so the Times has incentive to inflate the impact of its articles to try to increase its chances of coming away with a Pulitzer.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.