Slonimer Hassidim who removed their daughters from the Emmanuel Beit Ya’acov
school are apparently trying to talk certain Sephardi parents into sending their
children to the new school they are planning to open in the town, though the
motives behind the move are not entirely clear.
According to a Thursday
report in Yediot Aharonot, Slonimer Hassidim attending an assembly at the
recently reunified Beit Ya’acov school last week apologized to the Sephardi
parents and said they’d had no intention of saying the latter were
insufficiently observant, which they had implied during the heated affair
surrounding the school that recently reached a resolution.
“We didn’t go
to prison because we are racists,” they said, and proceeded to invite some of
the parents of girls in the so-called “general track” to send their girls to the
new school they had in the works.
Last month, the High Court of Justice
imprisoned 35 fathers of girls enrolled in Emmanuel’s Beit Ya’acov primary
school for holding the court in contempt. The parents had refused to return
their daughters to the school once the separation they had unlawfully
established between the more stringent hassidic track and the general track had
The original petition was submitted by Yoav Laloum and the
nonprofit organization Noar Kahalacha in July 2008. The petitioners charged that
the mostly hassidic parents had established, without permission from the
Education Ministry, a separate school within the confines of the recognized Beit
Only those girls who adhered to the strict and
Ashkenazi-oriented regulations of the new school were admitted. As a result, the
overwhelming majority of students in the new school were Ashkenazi.
August 16, 2009, the court accepted Laloum’s petition and ordered all elements
of discrimination in the school to be removed.
When the Independent
Education Center (Hinuch Atzma’i) obeyed the order and removed the partitions,
the hassidic-track parents responded by withdrawing their daughters from the
school and establishing an adhoc, unauthorized school.
Over the school
year, these primarily Slonim parents continued to refuse to merge their
daughters with the mainstream girls, arguing that their own religious customs
and ways of life differed from those of the other families.
that their demand for separation had nothing to do with ethnic
The court found the parents in contempt of court and
ordered their imprisonment.
However, after accepting a proposal by Shas
spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the rebbe of Slonim, according
all the girls studying in Emmanuel would come together at the Beit
school for three days of lectures by spiritual leaders from all streams,
court temporarily suspended the ruling that had led to the fathers’
While the Slonimers have claimed all along that the
separation was a result of religious stringency and not racial
the Yediot report said that the recent outreach was most probably due to
fact that the hassidim needed a certain quota of students to get the
state funding for their planned school.
Rabbi Yitzhak Weinberg, one of
the Emmanuel fathers who spent just over a week in prison, stressed that
the new school was indeed short a few heads, money was not behind the
the Sephardi parents.
“All along, we said it’s not about race, but the
High Court went out against our rabbis, and therefore we went to prison.
take any student who meets the criteria,” he said.
In response Thursday,
Laloum said, “We are glad that the segregating hassidim in Emmanuel have
internalized that through the unity of Israel we will bring about the
He also expressed hope that the underlying motivation for
inviting these girls would change from being fiscal. Citing the words of
Emmanuel’s Ashkenazi Rabbi Yitzhak Barlev, according to whom there is no
difference between the girls, Laloum said that in light of that
would hope that the unity would be real, and not only due to budgetary
Dan Izenberg contributed to this