Four years ago, Canadian Yohanan Lowen, then 33, left his Hasidic community behind. That move allowed him to take stock of his religious schooling. Lowen quickly began to see that, due to his education having consisted mostly of studying religious texts, he was woefully under-equipped to deal with life in secular Canada.
A 37-year-old former Hasidic Jew is suing the Quebec government for $1.25 million (U.S. $1.1 million) for allowing the ultra-Orthodox schools he attended in the province to teach him nothing of use in the non-Haredi world.
“I feel like a child of six years old, alone in the world, who doesn’t have parents, who doesn’t have somebody to take care of him. … I feel even worse than that child because that child only has to take care of himself, but I have to take care of my four children,” Yohanan Lowen told thestar.com.
Lowen, who left Quebec’s Hasidic community in 2010 and moved with his family to Montreal, says he is illiterate in French, doesn’t know the alphabet, and understands only the most basic math. He earns a little money teaching Aramaic at a secular night school, and otherwise supports his family on his monthly welfare check.
Lowen says the Hasidic schools he attended didn’t require him to learn French, English, math, science, history or any other secular subject. School officials told him that any time spent studying anything but Jewish religious texts was time wasted, he added.
I wish he’d sic his lawyer on the schools in question, too, but they may not be long for this world:
These schools are privately- or semi-privately funded, and as a rule are not certified by the Quebec education system. Education Minister Yves Bolduc has pledged to shut down such private schools.
For someone who seems to understand the value of education, it’s a little odd that Lowen apparently hasn’t learned to read and write over the past four years.
That said, if his allegations are true, his religious cult did cheat him out of a proper education, as did the government that failed to supervise the education standards of religious schools.
One unanswered question: how many more adults like Lowen there are, well-versed in the Torah but utterly bereft of the most basic secular knowledge.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Richard for the link)