Bar Ilan student kicked out of class over kippa

University defends policy of requiring students to sign form obligating them to wear head coverings in Judaism courses.

December 13, 2012 18:42
2 minute read.
Bar Ilan Universtyi students [illustrative]

Bar Ilan Universtyi students college lawn hanging out 390. (photo credit: Courtesy Bar Ilan University)


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A professor of Bar Ilan University’s faculty of Jewish studies kicked out an undergraduate student from Talmud class earlier this week for not wearing a kippa.

The incident sparked controversy when a classmate, Zohar Ben Shatach, posted a comment on the university’s facebook page which said: “How is it possible that a lecturer tells a student to get out of class for not wearing a kippa, and the university backs that teacher?"

Hundreds of comments from outraged students followed in defense of the student in question, who has not been named and could not be reached for comment. Many participants of the discussion called the event ‘religious coercion.’

The University itself replied to the thread saying that all students signed a form when starting their studies which obligates them to wear head coverings in Judaism courses.

“Not all professors enforce this rule, but those who do, do so faultlessly,” the institution wrote on the page.

Bar Ilan University later on released an official statement saying that: “According to university rules, male students are obligated to wear a kippa in all Jewish studies classes. The obligation to wear a kippa in classes where religious texts are taught is made to honor the Jewish tradition and values ​​of the institution.”

“It should be noted that this is not the first time that students seek not [to] wear a kippa in class,” the text continued, “In these cases there is communication with the students and efforts are made to find a settlement that will allow them to take classes where kippas are not maintained.”

Every student graduating Bar-Ilan University is required to complete seven courses in Basic Jewish Studies throughout their three years of BA studies, according to the institutions’ rules.

The professor, Dr. Haim Talbi, did not wish to comment on the issue.

Bar-Ilan Talmud scholar Dr. Jeffrey Woolf defended his colleague in an article published this week on an Israeli news website and wrote: "There is something terribly disingenuous (and, perhaps, hypocritical) about the attacks on my colleague. The same people who scream ‘Religious Coercion’ would not hesitate to remove their hats if so requested, when entering a lecture hall at Gregorian University in Rome.”

“After all," Woolf continued, "one must respect the venue in which one finds oneself. However, when a professor requests a student to offer respect to Jewish sacred texts by donning a kippa (and its legal standing is quite irrelevant), all Hell breaks loose."

Bar-Ilan University wrote that it remains committed to “narrowing the gap between religious and secular Israelis by giving them a common language, the language of Jewish tradition.”

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