Court: Does rabbinic ordination equal academic degree

Rabbi Haim Havlin files petition after being denied possibility to compete for a slot as supervisor as he lacks an academic degree.

January 27, 2011 05:13
3 minute read.

Yeshiva 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

After a preliminary hearing on Tuesday determined that the issue should be handled in the courts, the Jerusalem Labor Court will be deciding over the next few months whether rabbinic ordination should be recognized as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, vis-à-vis the Civil Service Commission’s prerequisites for the position of a supervisor in the haredi educational system.

The legality of the standard tender published by the commission in October for general supervisors is being challenged as discriminatory by the Haredi Clinic for Human Rights at Kiryat Ono Academic College and Rabbi Haim Havlin of Jerusalem, who, despite being an ordained rabbi with many years of experience as an educator, was denied the possibility to compete for a slot as a supervisor as he lacks an academic degree.

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The clinic – represented by Dr. Yaakov Ben-Shemesh and attorney Asaf Gabizon – joined forces with Havlin, and two weeks ago filed a petition against the Education Ministry and the Civil Service Commission to the Labor Court, which deals with disputes concerning state-issued tenders. The petition demanded that the tender for 15 such positions be put on hold, until the court rules on the subject. The petitioners also pointed out the fact that a Torah background was not a prerequisite for a supervisor position in the haredi educational system and was merely an advantage, while in other streams – such as the Muslim system – knowledge of the material was a must.

“The petitioners do not undermine the importance of the BA requirement,” the petition read. “But relating solely to an academic degree as testimony of the intellectual and practical abilities necessary [for this position] is not reasonable, and lacks cultural sensitivity... by ignoring the intellectual wealth of the world of Torah, and the result of that is unacceptable discrimination.

“Integrating haredim in the labor market has been on the public agenda for many months, and the media, politicians and economists have time and again proposed different ways to bring about the desired integration,” said the petition, written with the assistance of Akiva Meir, a kollel student who is also part of the clinic.

“The public service should also join the effort, and start with the elementary measures of removing unnecessary obstacles, like the prerequisites in the tender at hand.”

Jerusalem Labor Court Vice President Eyal Avrahami ruled in the preliminary hearing on Tuesday that the issue at hand, which for the first time reached a court, should be dealt with in due consideration. Since that might take some time, 14 of the available positions may be filled according to the prevailing criteria, while the 15th will be left open and considered by the court, most likely within two or three months. The petitioners were cautiously optimistic following Avrahami’s decision.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has recently announced his intention to increase the number of supervisors in the haredi educational system, to ensure that the core curriculum is taught in the state-funded institutions.

This recent tender, which combines both the conditions of an academic degree and at least 10 years of experience as an educator, is generating legal concerns over whether the position is being intended for people who are not haredi, since the growth in the number of haredim achieving academic degrees in recent years is primarily among young people, who would not have the required experience.

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