Preserve Rockland hosts Orthodox activists seeking education and marriage reform

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Reiss and Moster are both activists seeking reform in the ultra Orthodox communities
Reiss and Moster are both activists seeking reform in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities

On Sunday, Preserve Rockland hosted speakers Naftuli Moster of Young Advocates For Fair Education (YAFFED) and Fraidy Reiss, ‘Unchained At Last‘, a non-profit focused on ending forced marriage, to speak to a crowd of 80 people outside the Pearl River Elks club.

Moster and Reiss grew up in the ultra orthodox community and are now activist trying to bring education and marriage reform, respectively, within the ultra-othrodox communities.

In an interview after the event, Naftuli Moster explained that the children in the Hasidic communities are not exposed to anything that is divergent from their own social norms, and there are no necessary education requirements to be a teacher in most yeshivas.

“In these schools, the children are taught by people that look like them and speak like them, there is no teaching about anything different,” said Moster.

Moster’s goal is to improve the curriculum and raise awareness about the importance of general studies education within the ultra-orthodox school.

“They do not learn about the world outside their own community.” Moster added, “The problem in Rockland is particularly difficult because the two communities are so divided.”

Fraidy Reiss is a former member of the Hasidic Community and was forced to marry at 19 years old. Reiss says her husband was uneducated and abusive. Her family and members of the Hasidic community shunned her when she decided to go back to school at 27.

As difficulties with her husband’s violence continued Reiss said she found the police to be of no help. Reiss stated the Hasidic community controlled the Lakewood, NJ police where she resided at the time.

At 32, Reiss graduated valedictorian at Rutgers and Reiss left the community for good to start a new life with her young children. She worked for Asbury Park Press as an investigative journalist. Reiss no longer identifies as Jewish and said in an interview that she does not identify with any religion at all. Reiss is involved with non-profit ‘Unchained at Last’, which focuses on banning forced marriages in all communities, not just the ultra-orthodox.

Preserve Rockland member Pete Bradley moderated Sunday’s event.

“It was my honor in hosting an afternoon of learning and compassion with Fraidy and Naftuli,” said Bradley. “It’s becoming evidently clear that the most compassionate way that we can all help our Hasidic neighbors would be to actively support a rigid and structured NYS academic educational curriculum so that we may all be able to relish in the future success of pulling the Hasidic community off the perceived chronic reliance on public assistance.

Bradley continued, “When you have 99 percent of people from one community voting for one candidate, the rest of the community has to get more involved…People have to get to really know their candidates and make sure they are doing good for all of the community, not just a special interest group.”

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