MK Amsalem urges UTJ to confront racism in schools

Shas MK prepares for Knesset Education Committee session to fight discrimination against Sephardi girls in haredi Ashkenazi schools.

By JONAH MANDEL
October 24, 2010 02:05
2 minute read.
Haim Amsalem.

Haim Amsalem.. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)

 
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Shas MK Haim Amsalem is urging the members of United Torah Judaism to take action against the alleged racial discrimination of Sephardi girls prevalent in haredi Ashkenazi schools. On Tuesday the Knesset’s Education Committee will hold a session to discuss the problems of children who have not been accepted to haredi educational institutions.

In a letter sent Thursday to all five UTJ MKs titled, “The terrible ongoing injustice of not accepting Sephardi girls to seminars,” Amsalem was careful to avert the blame from the senior Ashkenazi rabbinical leadership, pointing instead to “the principals who disregard the orders of the leading rabbis [gedolei Israel].”

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Amsalem was referring to the unwritten numerous clauses said to reign in the Ashkenazi haredi Independent Education Center, according to which the quota of Sephardi girls in such institutions should not surpass 30 percent. This may bring about a situation in which a girl may not be accepted to a school simply because of her ethnic background, regardless of her academic achievements, according to the prevalent claim.

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In many cases, there are simply not enough Sephardi girls to justify the opening of a Shas school, even if the parents would want their children to attend one, and so the girls may be forced to travel long distances to a school that will have them. A committee to prevent such instances was formed by the Ashkenazi rabbinic leadership, but Amsalem in his letter brushes off the “toothless” body that has no effect on the reality in the schools.

“The terrible injustice and chaos reining in the modes of accepting boys and girls to the educational institutions cannot be ignored,” Amsalem wrote, noting that “principals disregard the orders of the leading rabbis, and do as they wish in regards to accepting students to their institutions,” mentioning Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and “nearly every locale with a haredi concentration” as places “afflicted by this indecent phenomenon.”

“You constantly declare with pride that you are acting under the instructions of the leading Ashkenazi rabbis, acting under the auspices of the Council of Torah Sages,” Amsalem, who is also a member of the Knesset Education Committee, charged the UTJ members. “When was there ever a real meeting among the leading rabbis to solve this problem in a serious and responsible manner, in conjunction with the Sephardi rabbis, and the rabbis leading the struggle against the phenomenon?” Amsalem warned the Ashkenazi MKs of the ensuing mudslinging at the haredi community to be expected from the general public after the upcoming committee meeting, which still has in mind the Emmanuel affair that was publicly perceived as a case of haredi racial discrimination.

“I desperately appeal you to combine forces to eradicate this phenomenon to the benefit of all sides, lest a Pandora’s box with unforeseeable outcomes be opened,” Amsalem wrote.

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