“Are Jewish moms and dads who send their children to religious schools lawbreakers? Or are they exercising their right to live by their beliefs—even if those beliefs are out of fashion with modern American sensibilities?”

So asks William McGurn, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, in an op-ed in the paper. The piece comes to the defense of Orthodox Jews, who have come under regular fire recently in The New York Times, and who are being investigated by the state’s education department.

At issue is a state law, more than 125 years old and with anti-Catholic origins, which requires instruction at private schools to be “substantially equivalent” to that of public ones. In a city and state with an enormous student population, the Times has trained its scope on some 50,000 Chasidic children.

Unlike public schools, where students often do poorly on math and science tests, Chasidic schools “are succeeding at something else: providing an advanced education in Jewish texts and law in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic,” writes McGurn. “It’s just not the education the state wants, because yeshivas aim for something different: a Jewish life in service of God and the community.”