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Long Island, NY - Lawrence School Lawsuit Based on a Big Lie

Published on: August 19, 2009 09:20 AM
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On Long Island, the Orthodox Jewish majority on the school board in Lawrence, which is led by Asher Mansdorf, right, has been criticized as being unresponsive to the rest of the community. fiule photo 2006 Long Island, NY - Last week, a federal judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order to block the closing of the Number 6 School. Why? Because she is of the opinion that this latest lawsuit by a small group of parents against the Lawrence school board has little chance of success on merit. The case is not over, though; further proceedings are scheduled to take place this week and next.

Generally a suit by parents against a school board is unremarkable, but this one received national attention. It accuses the school board of trampling the separation between church and state, claiming, “The Orthodox (Jewish) majority on the Board of Education, in a concerted effort to divert public monies to support the religious precept of Yeshiva enrollment, and in order to establish Orthodox Judaism as the official religion of the Lawrence Union Free School District, has utterly abandoned its duties to the innocent public school children who they are elected to serve.”
It also reinforces “The Big Lie.”

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George Orwell defined “The Big Lie” in his classic novel, 1984, as “to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.”

You know how its works: Never allow the public to cool off. Never admit a fault or wrong. Never concede that there may be some good in your opponent. Never leave room for alternatives. Never accept blame. Concentrate on one opponent at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong. Unfortunately, people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one, if you repeat it frequently enough.

This latest lawsuit, the most recent iteration of the distorted tale of the evils of the Five Towns Orthodox Jewish community, is “The Big Lie.” It is more than idle gossip and rumor. It ignores fact. It attempts to legitimize bias in a socially acceptable form. It maligns an entire law-abiding community that happens to be different than the plaintiffs when it claims that Orthodox Jews are unfit to serve on the school board. It is racist. It is classically anti-Semitic. It is as overtly heinous as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Who would dare accuse any other racial or religious group of being unfit to participate in local government? Only a bigot would do that. But that’s exactly what the plaintiffs’ have done. Imagine the public outcry if these parents had claimed that there were too many Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or Catholics on the board? But, to these parents, being an Orthodox Jew is a disqualification from elective office.

I am sure that, if asked, the plaintiffs would say that it’s OK to be Orthodox and to be different. It would be socially unacceptable and politically incorrect to say otherwise. But their lawsuit reveals their true feelings. It is OK to be different — as long as you’re different on their terms: Yes, you must pay school taxes, but no, you cannot have a say in how those tax dollars are spent. Yes, you can live in our community, but no, you cannot have any say in community institutions.  Yes, you can send your children to a Yeshiva, but no, they can’t use publicly funded buildings.  Yes, you can vote, but no, you can’t vote for candidates who represent your views.

The centerpiece of the lawsuit is its very biggest lie. It accuses the school board of starving the public schools and diverting funds to the yeshivas. Public school education is in decline.  The school district is being taken apart brick-by-brick to be sold to yeshivas.

Most of the actual facts are inconvenient for the plaintiffs, and thus ignored. Only the limited facts that suit their purpose are repeated.

Yes, it’s true that Orthodox Jews comprise a majority of the members of the school board. This first occurred in May 2004. Previously, parents who sent their children to public school, private school and parochial school, or had no children in any school in the district, controlled the board. What happened for 20 years under their tenure? There were no major capital projects. The Middle School roof leaked. No improvements were made to the fields. The heating systems degenerated and the foundation of the Number 6 School was eroded by water. No one voiced any concern that the Number 5 School had a blacktop schoolyard and no grass.  The water and gas in the Middle School’s labs were shut off 20 years ago and never repaired. The Number 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 Schools were not made accessible to the handicapped and the Middle School elevator was constantly out of order. We suffered skyrocketing taxes as the district illegally amassed an $18 million surplus, when the legal limit was less than $1.2 million. The school board funded an illegal $5 million dental reserve fund. The board spent $1 million on a software program that was never installed, bought Palm Pilots that were never distributed and supplied board members with personal laptop computers. In short, the entire infrastructure of the school system was permitted to decay.

Most importantly, educational performance was in free-fall. Nonetheless, the board voted salary increases and benefits packages for the teachers that placed the District at the very top of teacher compensation in New York State.  An average teacher’s salary in our district is approximately $95,000 plus benefits.

“The Big Lie” always ignores inconvenient facts. Here are a few more that have been conveniently ignored.

In the last five years, while the majority of members of the board are Orthodox Jews, the district has achieved remarkable results.

  * For the first time in more than 20 years academic scores are on the rise.
  * The only full day Pre-K program in Nassau County was instituted and has resulted in tremendous academic gains for children now entering first grade.
  * The High School graduation rate is up and truancy is down.
  * Every building will be handicapped accessible and every building is undergoing renovation. More than $17 million is being spent on infrastructure repairs without an increase in taxes.
  * All the labs are being upgraded and will be current.
  * The phone and computer systems have been replaced, enabling the broadest possible use of the Internet by students, faculty and staff.
  * All of the buildings are going wireless, allowing each classroom be a computer lab.
  * Most classrooms already have smart boards — technology that allows teachers to have real-time Internet access in the classroom — the rest are slated to get them.
  * The football field is being replaced with an all-weather playing surface, at a cost of $1 million.
  * There are more elective High School courses now than there were five years ago.
  * A Fine Arts, Music and Dance Academy was founded and funded. We are the only the school district in the Five Towns that has an advanced fine arts program.
  * Despite several years of contingency budgets no athletic programs were eliminated.
  * The sports program is thriving in our district unlike in many other Long Island communities that are mothballing their programs to save money.

The only antidote to lies is the truth. I hope that this lawsuit will be the vehicle for positive change by emphatically debunking “The Big Lie” and chastising those who tell them. Fair-minded individuals will not be swayed by scurrilous and baseless lawsuits. They will always be guided by the truth. That is the American way.



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Read Comments (13)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Aug 19, 2009 at 09:48 AM YH Says:

Bravo Dr. Mansdorf! A superb dentist, and a wonderful human being!

2

 Aug 19, 2009 at 09:57 AM 5T Resident Says:

This is not news to anyone who lives in the 5T, especially within District 15. The so-called "public school parents" have been seething in anger since losing control of the school board five years ago and have tried everything they can think of to either get control back or make the Orthodox board's job harder. This is the second lawsuit that I'm aware of that's been thrown out of court before it ever got off the ground.

These "parents", which group does not actually represent the interests of all public school parents in District 15, are not interested in the many facts cited in the article that demonstrate how much attention the current Board is paying to the public schools and how much better the District has been run over the past 5 years. They just don't like the idea of a bunch of religious Jews are in control. They'd rather keep empty schools open and pay teachers with classes of five students, with the higher taxes that would be needed to pay for it.

Its an old story and a sad one.

But the worst part of it all is that the leaders of the parents group are secular Jews, not gentiles.

4

 Aug 19, 2009 at 09:22 AM Anonymous Says:

I think this lawsuit is very helpful because it reinforces that the primary enemy of Yiddishkeit is the Left.

Whether its the Socialist in Washington, D.C., communist Israelis in Tel Aviv trying to impose their filthy European values on the community, or Leftists in Gaza engaging in jihad/genocide - the Left is the enemy.

Yidden ought to realize this and join together with people of good-will everywhere to destroy Obama and his supporters at the national, international and local level.

5

 Aug 19, 2009 at 10:29 AM Anonymous Says:

Asher Mansdorf is seeking to implement proposals that he are in the best interests of everyone who lives in the Lawrence school district. Though I don't always agree with Asher, he is a fine, dedicated and talented individual. Unfortunately, the same can not be said in reference to many of the other individuals who are active on both sides of the wide divide that presently polarizes portions of this beautiful community.

I am an orthodox resident of the district who sent children to private schools. Though I haven't utilized the public schools in any meaningful way, I recognize the important role that quality public education has played in American society. If anything, it will play an even greater role in the future.

Asher and all other members of the orthodox community have every right to believe that the arguments advanced in the recent lawsuit were disgraceful. I hope that large numbers of public school parents who otherwise support the positions advanced by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit will public repudiations of these arguments. At the same time, I hope that members of the school board recognize that while consolidation of buildings appears to make sense given the difficult economic times and declining public school enrollment, closing the #6 school is opposed by much of the public school community and should be rescinded. A less controversial consolidation proposal needs to be advanced.



6

 Aug 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM Anonymous Says:

Much of the anti-orthodox sentiments and the roots of this lawsuit are from the local teachers' union, which has been gradually losing their stranglehold on the schools over the last few years. Obviously they're not pleased with board members who value academic achievement and demand better performance. This is not much different than the corruption in our state capital, which has been funded and controlled by the most powerful unions, at the expense of good government and to the detriment of the other 99.9% of citizens of NYS.

7

 Aug 19, 2009 at 01:33 PM Aluminum Foil Helps Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

I think this lawsuit is very helpful because it reinforces that the primary enemy of Yiddishkeit is the Left.

Whether its the Socialist in Washington, D.C., communist Israelis in Tel Aviv trying to impose their filthy European values on the community, or Leftists in Gaza engaging in jihad/genocide - the Left is the enemy.

Yidden ought to realize this and join together with people of good-will everywhere to destroy Obama and his supporters at the national, international and local level.

Health Tip: If you wrap your body in aluminum foil and wear a foil hat you can successfully block the signals being beamed at you from your television and, err, foil the Leftist's plot.

8

 Aug 19, 2009 at 02:46 PM Anonymous Says:

I think if the "Orthodox" really wanted to take over they would enroll all their children in public school. Let's see if the District can handle the extra enrollment, provide kosher food for lunch and deal with pushy, demanding parents.

LOL

9

 Aug 19, 2009 at 03:36 PM Another 5T resident Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

I think if the "Orthodox" really wanted to take over they would enroll all their children in public school. Let's see if the District can handle the extra enrollment, provide kosher food for lunch and deal with pushy, demanding parents.

LOL

The Lawrence Teachers Association would like nothing more. The buildings are half empty, they can handle the extra enrollment very easily.

10

 Aug 19, 2009 at 08:08 PM cp Says:

This lawsuit is outrageous. According to their line of thinking, anyone who doesn't have kids in the school shouldn't serve on the Board. Bottom line ... When public school funding stops coming from all our property taxes, we can start saying who should or shouldn't be on the board. But this is the USA, and there's NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.

11

 Aug 26, 2009 at 03:01 PM Vince427 Says:

First of all Mr. Mansdorf's assertion that the lawsuit was anti-semetic is unfounded. The problem lies in the fact that #6 school was shut down and then sold to a private group so that a Yeshiva could be built. It seems to me that it is the Orthodox who are the racists since they are the ones segregating the community. They should have sent their children to the public schools and funded them properly like the schools on the North Shore do.

12

 Dec 07, 2009 at 12:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Looks like Lawrence was the test case and now the lawyer who won against the Lawrence Parents is offering his services to the school board in East Ramapo at 4 times an increase over what they are paying their current lawyers. See New York Times Article, December 6th, Our Towns, Board's Hiring Sets Off A School War. Whoever says it is not about the money and what's best for their own is living in a fantasy world, it is always about the money and how does it benefit me.

13

 Sep 14, 2011 at 05:17 PM OXOXO Says:

Reply to #10  
cp Says:

This lawsuit is outrageous. According to their line of thinking, anyone who doesn't have kids in the school shouldn't serve on the Board. Bottom line ... When public school funding stops coming from all our property taxes, we can start saying who should or shouldn't be on the board. But this is the USA, and there's NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.

Of course they are allowed to have a say in how the money is earned! They payed taxes for that! But then so do the residents who send their children to the public schools! It's not a hidden fact that the board IS a majority Orthodox Jew, and while it would be nice to say that they're all impartial and would spend the money fairly, this might not always be true. I don't know exactly how the money is being spent, but it's not completely unfounded for the parents to say that the Board of Education could be favoring the private schools because that is where a majority of their interests lie in.

14

 Sep 09, 2013 at 05:04 PM 5TownsGuy Says:

It is an interesting issue. I think the board just last week made a big error in not allowing the very small amount of Catholic students to have a bus ride to school on the Jewish holidays. Stuff like that right or wrong gives bad "optics". Also folks have to realize to some parents Having an Orthodox board in a public school is a akin to a Yeshiva school having a board that was a majority Mormans or Baptists etc. They might do a great job, but I bet the parents would be suspicious of their intentions. If anything the board needs to be held to a higher standard and not even ever give the appearance of playing favorites as long as that happens no one should complain.
Lawrence schools are interesting as you have blue collar Italians in Inwood, folks in the projects, folks with no kids who own summer homes in Atlantic Beach and folks who send their kids to Catholic Schools. Also the non-orthodox mixed into the public schools. It is not a school district for one town. So all must get along.

15

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