Some chose to interpret my article as attack on the Chabad movement: "While it is true that secular studies aren't taught at Oholei Torah, the same can be said of almost all ultra-Orthodox schools around the world, so bashing Chabad alone isn't fair," as if the educational failings of Chabad -- the only aspect of Chabad I criticized -- are minimized by those other communities around the world.
The same people even claimed that Jewish "holy studies" were enough alone because they produce smarter brains. Many responses were racist, and some, downright rude, simply because I chose to blow the whistle on a reality that still haunts me and others who are striving to attain higher education despite being denied the basic foundation for that.
Some attacked my character and my intentions, others lambasted me as the shtut meshugener (town crazy person) and even impugned my family. Another, an English professor no less, dared to claim that the students of these schools in Crown Heights that do not teach academic subjects are better off than "the black kid in Bed St[u]y" (Bedford-Stuyvesant, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Brooklyn) -- as if all Jewish children are too privileged as a class to be disadvantaged by a lack of education, as if it is a competition and white Jews can therefore ignore the problems in their communities.
At the age of 17, I had a formal education more comparable to a third grader. Without a solid formal education, I lacked the opportunity to function as an informed, educated young adult. I managed to pass a GED test after great difficulty at the age of 18 out of my own initiative; going to college and pursuing a higher education had been presented as almost heretical by the educators in my school.
I do hope to go to college, but my early lack of education has caused great difficulty. I was well versed on things like the Talmud or Bible, but thinking in English, understanding the country that I lived in and its history and knowing the basic formulae of math, let alone understanding them, were out of my reach.
We did have some minor training in Yiddish writing and spelling, but the courses were never demanding enough that one would be able to formulate a full essay even in Yiddish, which was a second language to most of us, who spoke English at home.
Bringing awareness and trying prevent social injustices from occurring within Orthodox Jewish communities, both to LGBT people and youth generally, has lead to vicious attacks. It seems the most scrutiny comes from Orthodox people who would defend a broken system that harms the lives of many.
Unwilling to admit that there really is a problem with the schooling system which people are afraid to challenge because, as many have told me, "there are no other schools in Crown Heights to send our children to."
Some have dared to try to blame those of us who were harmed mostly by this system and to place the entire burden of success on our shoulders, saying things like "Well, you can blame your background all you want, but it's up to you to do something about it." Some point to the success of few people in Crown Heights who have become CEOs or owners of large businesses and are considered wealthy, but they once again fail to recognize the vast majority of people who have seen only difficulty and no success because of their educational background.
Success in academia and the ability to pursue a career and a higher education does not start when one is 18 years old, and certainly not without any background in academic subjects. Compulsory education starts at 5 years old, when one would ideally be learning the ABCs and counting, the foundation to literacy and mathematics.
People are indeed entitled to ensure their children have a Jewish, religious and Hebrew education, and there are so many schools who offer both Hebrew religious studies and full formal academics as required by the state and board of education.