Thursday, September 17, 2015
Yoel Falkowitz would love to see his children attend college one day, but he knows first-hand how daunting that can be for boys educated in Hasidic yeshivas.
The 35-year-old Spring Valley resident has lived it himself.
Born and raised in Monroe as part of the Satmar Hasidic sect, Falkowitz studied for a time in a yeshiva in Canada before returning to New York. After marrying, he joined a friend in pursuing a high school general equivalency diploma, something exceedingly unusual for Hasidic men, most of whom live their lives exclusively among people of their own sect.
He struggled to complete the coursework due to an inadequate education in history, geography and other subjects.
"The more education I got, the more my eyes were opened," he said. "Why was I denied all this? Why wouldn't they give it me? I became very angry at the whole system."
Today, married with three sons, he works at B&H Photo in Manhattan, a massive Hasdic-owned photo and electronics retailer. At night, he studies for a DeVry University degree. Falkowitz plans to specialize in bio-medical engineering technology.
His three sons attend a Hasidic yeshiva in Spring Valley, where he says they receive a sub-par secular education.
"Most of the subjects are being totally ignored," he said. "In math, they learn up to division. With (English) reading and writing, they pick up some but they're not really being taught."
This handicaps them in the wider world. For example, when his kids visit the zoo, they don't know not to feed the animals because they can't read the signs.
Falkowitz says he does all he can to supplement his children's limited secular education. He has posted O.S. and world maps in his home. He reads them National Geographic magazines, to their delight.
"My kids know what a cell is because I tell him," he said. "Most adults here wouldn't know."
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