A case history of the Kiryas Joel School District

Carl Mitchell Gold, Fordham University


The Case History of the Kiryas Joel School District, told as a story, is a qualitative research study. It is a tale of 2 diverse cultures, the Hasidic and the secular, having little understanding of one another and a curiously distorted image of each other. Even when necessity forces one culture to create an alliance with the other, they remain at odds, never establishing a genuine partnership, always maintaining a sense of distrust. The focal point of this dissertation is the Kiryas Joel Public School District. It is a district consisting of one public school that was created by act of the New York State Legislature in 1989. The school is located in an insular community, approximately 100 miles north of New York City, where residents of the Jewish Satmar Hasidic sect make up almost the entire population. The research depicts a group of people, the Satmar, who are passionate about their beliefs and work tirelessly to maintain their lifestyle. The Kiryas Joel Public School is seen by the majority of the Satmar as a way of addressing the needs of handicapped children in their community, while at the same time, not compromising their lifestyle. This research discusses the legal and social challenges that the Hasidic community faced in order to keep the school running. To date, there have been a total of 6 related decisions handed down from federal and state courts (including the United States Supreme Court). In every case, the legality of the particular law that established the Kiryas Joel Public School District was in question. In every case, those laws were declared unconstitutional. Despite those challenges, the Hasidim, using their political and financial influence, have kept the school alive within their community, and in essence, under their control. Throughout all of the legal battles, the quality of the special education programs offered to students in the Kiryas Joel Public school has never been in question. As this research points out, students are exposed to programs that, while changed to reflect their unique culture, compare favorably to those offered in the Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services special education program.

Subject Area

School administration|Religious education|Special education

Recommended Citation

Gold, Carl Mitchell, "A case history of the Kiryas Joel School District" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3003023.