Classroom in Israel. [File].
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The two leading haredi rabbis of the Ashkenazi non-hassidic sector Rabbis Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Haim Kanievsky denounced the intervention of the Education Ministry into the placement of haredi school girls in haredi schools.
Their declaration is part of an ongoing struggle between the Education Ministry and the leadership of the haredi education sector, and has been intensified in recent days after five girls schools have refused to accept pupils despite instructions to do so from the ministry.
The two rabbis said in a signed letter that only school principals have the authority to decide who is given a place, and specifically rejected the authority of the Education Ministry and local municipal authorities to intervene on such matters.
In the wake of the recent placement controversy, the Haredi Department of the Education Ministry froze the budgets of all five schools involved, which led the Association of Seminars representing haredi girls high schools to convene an emergency meeting of school principals to discuss how to respond. The meeting took place Sunday night.
Activists have for many years sought to eradicate the discrimination faced by Sephardi haredi girls who were subject to quotas in predominantly Ashkenazi haredi schools, while discrimination against Ashkenazi girls based on a perceived shortfall in religious observances by their families is another complicating factor in school placement for haredi girls.
At the beginning of the school year, the ministry says that some 60 haredi girls around the country had not been placed, but this number was reduced as the ministry and the local municipal authorities were able to resolve several of the cases.
However, according to a report by the Kol Barama haredi radio station, some 26 girls in Jerusalem alone have still not begun the school year because of the ongoing refusal of the schools where they were placed to accept them.
According to the ministry, ten of these cases are unknown to them since they were originally placed by the Jerusalem municipal authority and the refusal of the schools to accept them was not made known to the ministry.
The Jerusalem municipality itself has said that it will not allow seminars to discriminate against the students for any reason, and sources in the Education Ministry state that it is likely that more schools will have their budgets frozen if the they fail to accept the pupils they have been allocated.
In addition, there are another 17 pupils in Jerusalem who are refusing to accept the school where the ministry placed them and they too have yet to begin the school year.
On Sunday morning, haredi education activist Yoav Laloum of the Noar K’halacha organization, sent a letter to the Education Ministry and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat accusing them of failing to do enough to resolve the problem and threatening to take the issue to court