Shas seeks law against ethnic bias in haredi schools

Margi, Yishai note inconceivable reality of girls sitting at home, after not finding educational institution that would accept them.

By JONAH MANDEL
January 4, 2011 03:35
2 minute read.
Haredi protesters in Jerusalem

haredim protest emmanuel 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

After a long period of handwringing, Shas has decided to take the ethnic discrimination in schools head-on, with party chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai festively yet solemnly announcing on Monday that a solution for the problem is in the works, in the form of legislation combined with a rabbinic committee.

“We hope United Torah Judaism will be at our side on this. Unfortunately, there are high school principals who don't even listen to rabbis,” Yishai said at the faction meeting.

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Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi will be overseeing the legislation that Shas says will put an end to the phenomenon predominantly plaguing haredi Sephardi girls, who are not accepted to the Ashkenazi-run Beit Ya’acov high schools, which are recognized-but-unofficial state schools and receive 75 percent of their funding from the government.

At the Monday faction meeting, both Margi and Yishai noted the inconceivable reality of girls sitting at home, after not finding an educational institution that would accept them. For decades, an unwritten quota has been said to prevail in the Ashkenazi haredirun Independent Education network (Hinuch Atzma’i), that limits the percentage of Sephardi girls in those schools to 30%.

According to an adviser to Margi, the planned legislation will divide the neighborhoods into zones, and give girls automatic priority for admission to the school in their vicinity, exactly like the public school system.

In October, Yishai and Shas MK Haim Amsalem both sent letters to the UTJ lawmakers, after hearing of cases in which Sephardi girls were not accepted to Ashkenazi institutions, which were the sole ones in a reasonable distance from their homes.

The Knesset Education Committee was supposed to hold a session to discuss the problems of children who have not been accepted to haredi educational institutions, but that meeting did not take place in the end.

The driving force behind the Emmanuel school High Court of Justice petition recently threatened Yishai with more legal problems if the minister did not keep his word and take concrete actions to put an end to ethnic discrimination at haredi schools, as he committed to at the conclusion of the Emmanuel affair.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post, in a letter last month Yoav Laloum reminded Yishai of his recent commitment to form a rabbinical committee that would oversee and regulate the acceptance of girls to high schools, one of the resolutions following the Emmanuel affair. Laloum recently reiterated his stances in an interview with one of the Hebrew papers.

Margi’s adviser denied on Monday that Shas’s resurgence of motivation had anything to do with Laloum.

Laloum himself said that his “Noar Kahalacha NGO and its rabbis welcome any measures to prevent discrimination and arbitrariness in accepting girls to educational institutions, and specifically haredi high schools.

“It is a shame that those leading the process in Shas didn’t meet with representatives of Noar Kahalacha, who are very knowledgeable about the issue at hand. The NGO and its rabbis will continue to follow the developments and ensure that words will be turned into actions and lead to real solutions to the problem.”


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