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 Esil’s Reviews > The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State

The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State
by Louis Grumet (Goodreads Author), John Caher (Goodreads Author), Judith S. Kaye (Foreword)

3643764

Esil‘s review

Mar 24, 2016
really liked it

bookshelves: netgalley

Read from March 22 to 24, 2016

 

It’s tempting not to rate The Curious Case of Kyrias Joel, but I’ll give it 4 stars for bringing my attention to an interesting US court case and for the author’s enthusiasm. As the head of the Board of Education in the State of New York, Louis Grumet challenged a law that allowed for the establishment of a publicly funded school board that was only to serve a small insular Hasidic Jewish community. Part of the reason the community sought out its own school board was to provide education to children with special needs in a religiously segregated environment; the community did not want its children to be educated in an integrated school system but could not afford to fund special education in its private schools. And the state of New York accommodated this desire by passing a law that created this small separate school board. The motivation for Grumet’s challenge was to ensure the continued separation of church and state; his view was that there were many ways to ensure that the community’s children with special needs could receive specialized education without creating a separate school board for the community. The establishment of a separate publicly funded school board was a slippery slope that would allow for the public funding of any number of religious segregated school systems. Ultimately, Grumet succeeded in his challenge which went all the way to the US Supreme Court. The book describes in great detail different aspects of the battle — the public relations issues, the political issues and the court case itself. It doesn’t make for scintillating reading. There is some repetition and some unevenness in the book’s focus. I also had a strong sense that Grumet is still trying to process his experience through this book, which means that at times it reads more like personal musings than a book meant for an outside audience. But as I said at the outset, the topic is interesting — albeit complicated — and Grumet’s dedication to the integrity of the US Establishment clause is impressive. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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Abby’s Reviews > The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State

The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State
by Louis Grumet (Goodreads Author), John Caher (Goodreads Author), Judith S. Kaye (Foreword)

44478099

Abby‘s review

Mar 26, 2016
really liked it

bookshelves: nonfiction

Read from February 15 to 19, 2016

 

In 1989, New York State Governor Mario Matthew Cuomo, signed into law a provision that would allow the village of Kiryas Joel, and only the village of Kiryas Joel, to create a public school district. Cuomo’s close friend Louis Grumet, who was then the executive director of the New York State School Boards Associatation warned that the law was unconsititutional. Because Kiryas Joel is inhabited solely by Hassidic Jews of the Satmar sect, and the school district created to bend to the religious laws of that sect, Grumet argued the new district violated seperation of church and state. Cuomo was not impressed. “Who’s going to sue?” he asked.

Louis Grumet sued, and the resulting case, Board of Education of Kiryas Joel v. Grumet, went all the way to the Supreme Court. This book is the story of that court case, but it’s also much more. It’s about political corruption. It’s about the increasing erosion of the wall between religion and government, and how many politicians seem happy to pick up a hammer and chip away when it’s politically expedient.

To say that the Satmar Jews are outside the mainstream American culture would be an understatement. Yiddish is the first language among its adherents, and many speak no English at all. Boys study at Yeshiva, taught by men, and girls attend a wife-training program, taught by women. Most every detail of daily life, from dress to diet, is regulated by the religious leaders and religious traditon. One cannot purchase a home in Kiryas Joel without permission of the Grand Rebbe. Kiryas Joel, in effect, a closed village to all but one religious group.

Because the Samtar vote in a bloc, taking direct orders from the Grand Rebbe into the voting booth, they weilded considerable power with politicians, Cuomo and George Pataki among them. For the most part, it seemed like the Samtar got what they wanted, and in 1989 they wanted their own union-free school district. The stated purpose of the district was to educate the handful of special needs students living in Kiryas Joel. But the residents of Kiryas Joel wanted this public service on their own religious terms. For example, village leaders rejected the idea of female bus drivers picking up students.

And so became the question: can the state establish a public school district to cater to the members of one religious sect? What’s to stop any race, religion, or ethnic group from following in the footsteps of Kiryas Joel?

I think this is an important book. But it’s also a pretty enjoyable read on a subject that threatens to get dry and dull. Authors Louis Grumet and John M. Caher write with a biting whit and cynasism. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to refer to Kiryas Joel as an “eastern european ghetto.” Grumet is clearly proud of his involvement in this case. However, readers might be left wondering what the point of it all was. There was no historic case law made, and the Samtar in Kiryas Joel continue, to this day, to use political clout to get around inconvenient laws.

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Susan Walker’s Reviews > The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State

The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State
by Louis Grumet (Goodreads Author), John Caher (Goodreads Author), Judith S. Kaye (Foreword)

U 50x66

Susan Walker‘s review

Apr 06, 2016
really liked it

 

I think the story of Satmar Hasidic community trying to form their own laws and community is fascinating. The fact that one of the writers was a plaintiff in the case that test the separation of church and state makes the book even more interesting.
1 like · Like ∙ flag

Glen’s Reviews > The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State

The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State
by Louis Grumet (Goodreads Author), John Caher (Goodreads Author), Judith S. Kaye (Foreword)

M 50x66

Glen‘s review

Apr 27, 2016
liked it

bookshelves: biography, firstreads, nonfiction

Read from April 22 to 23, 2016


I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

An interesting memoir about the battle between the State School Board of New York and then-governor Mario Cuomo over whether school for mentally challenged children living in an all-Jewish conclave was constitutional.

The legal drama and the character sketches of various politicians are interesting. But what is most interesting are some of the more incidental statements and occurrences.

Grumet spends most of the book kissing up to Mario Cuomo, his opponent in the lawsuit, with a sort of blind loyalty that is disconcerting.

He admits that his challenge to the school funding, and his entire devotion to the “wall of separation” between church and state is not due to anything like the constitution or the country, but is instead a part of his Jewish identity. Seems to me maybe we ought to go back and look at some of these decision if that is the case.

We see that the school for Kiryas Joel, one freed from all the rules and regulations from the state, quickly became one of the best schools of its kind in the world. That should tell us all we need to know about the education bureaucracy.

We see how little court decisions have anything to do with the law, or precedents, or anything that we’re told matter in these cases. Exactly like we all suspected.

We see that Clarence Thomas, far from being Scalia’s puppet is really a very intelligent judge.

We see the terrible power of PC.

A good book, but not necessarily for the reasons the author intended.

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Sue’s Reviews > The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State

The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State
by Louis Grumet (Goodreads Author), John Caher (Goodreads Author), Judith S. Kaye (Foreword)

40403556

Sue‘s review

May 15, 2016
Read in May, 2016

 

I received this book from Good Reads.

Well written, well researched. A must for legal scholars interested in the interpretation of separation of Church and State. For us simple votes and those interested in politics, an affirmation of why separation is important. All of us must pay attention and keep it that way, especially in our era of school vouchers, religious symbols on tax payer property (court houses, etc.) and a woman’s RIGHT to choose!

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