Impoverished ex-Hasid, 37, suing Quebec over useless schooling

Father of four Yohanan Lowen, living mainly on welfare, is effectively illiterate; only job skill is teaching Aramaic.


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

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.

The issue of Haredi schools failing to give pupils a solid education in basic secular subjects is not only a controversy in Israel, but also in Quebec, where many Haredi communities are rooted.

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.

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