Governor Andrew Cuomo received the endorsement of the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg on Thursday, after reportedly promising not to interfere with New York's yeshivas—even as the city's education leaders have vowed to move forward with a long-delayed investigation into the ultra-Orthodox schools.

The agreement was reached during a Thursday night visit to the home of Brooklyn-based grand rabbi Zalman Tietelbaum, according to multiple reports. Israeli blog BeChadrei Chareidim first covered the visit, with Yeshiva World translating, "the Governor reassured the Rebbe that he would not interfere in Yeshiva education." Tietelbaum is one of two feuding sons of the late Grand Rebbe of the Satmar sect, and controls the central Satmar congregation in Williamsburg and the Satmar Yeshiva in Queens. Brooklyn's Hasidic community, which votes as a bloc, wields significant political power in state and local politics.

The apparent quid pro quo comes weeks after the New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza addressed the stalled probe into whether the yeshivas are fulfilling basic education requirements, writing in a letter to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia that investigators have still not been granted access to half of the ultra-Orthodox schools in question.

The investigation was launched three years ago, following allegations from the group Young Advocates For A Fair Education [Yaffed] that yeshiva students receive almost no secular instruction, leaving them with few options after graduation. It has been rigorously opposed at almost every step by leaders of the ultra-Orthodox sect, as well as powerful state Senator Simcha Felder.

"We have a governor who allegedly promised that, if reelected, he would pick up where Felder left off and let Yeshivas continue to deny tens of thousands of children a basic education," Yaffed founder Naftuli Moster told Gothamist, referring to the so-called Felder Amendment, which could exempt yeshivas from state guidelines requiring private schools provide education that is "substantially equivalent" to their public counterparts.

"Whatever happened to politicians expressing respect and appreciation for religious or cultural differences without crossing the line of promising to help them violate the law and the New York Constitution?" Moster asked.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for the Governor's Office, would not confirm or deny whether Cuomo made the comments to the Grand Rebbe, but did say that "the governor has no role in this matter as schools are regulated by the state Education Department." He added that the governor was working to ensure yeshivas are in compliance with all laws and State Education Department guidelines.


A lawsuit related to the Felder Amendment was filed this summer by Yaffed, and accuses both the State Education Department and Governor Cuomo of unconstitutionally exempting the religious institutions from oversight. Azzopardi would not comment on the lawsuit, or whether Governor Cuomo wants more yeshivas to open their doors to investigators.

Cuomo's primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, has likewise avoided the subject of the yeshiva investigation in her campaign so far.