Religious school girls 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Education Ministry has, with the formation of a new committee, expropriated
from the hands of principals the power to assign high school girls to haredi
institutions, as pressure on the ministry grows to find solutions for what is
regarded as racial discrimination against Sephardi girls.
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In a letter
sent to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday, Education Ministry director-general
Dr. Shimshon Shoshani asked that Barkat form a committee to “ensure that all the
pupils will be enrolled in schools.”
The committee will be led by the
head of the educational system in the municipality, and will include two
religious public figures and an Education Ministry truant inspector.
same letter was also sent to the mayors of the haredi cities Beitar Ilit, Bnei
Brak and Modi’in Ilit, and set July 28 as the deadline for finding solutions to
the non-enrolled girls.
On Tuesday, however, the principals were told by
senior Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv that the Education
Ministry should not be allowed to determine haredi educational
At a meeting in the rabbi’s home, Elyashiv - who in the past
spoke out against racism in schools and last year issued a harsh letter on the
subject - reiterated to the educators his grief over discrimination in Ashkenazi
as well as Sephardi educational institutions, said Shlomo Kook, a spokesman for
the rabbi. But Elyashiv also stressed that “external elements should not be
allowed to dictate the rules, since such intervention could spread to other
issues of principle within the educational realm, which is so important to
The same forum, sans the rabbi, met last week at the Knesset in the
United Torah Judaism (UTJ)’s chambers, where they committed to finding a
solution for each and every girl without a school.
On Tuesday, a
spokesman for MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said that the lawmaker objected to the new
committee, as the institutions themselves were already taking care of the
Shoshani’s directive comes less than two weeks after the
principals of the secondary Ashkenazi haredi schools for girls and the Beit
Yaakov network sent the Education Ministry a long letter, in which they detailed
the ways they were ensuring there was no racial discrimination applied in
accepting, or rejecting, girls at the institutions.
A recent State
Comptroller report slammed these haredi institutions on the absence of clear and
transparent enrollment guidelines, a situation that can lead to racial
The Education Ministry was warned to make “real changes”
in how it supervised these schools.
Sources told The Jerusalem Post on
Tuesday that there were currently 150 Sephardi girls in Jerusalem who were not
accepted to a secondary educational institution, less than two months before the
school year begins. An total of another 250 girls were in that condition in the
other haredi cities Shoshani’s letter reached.
The claim that Ashkenazi
haredi high schools discriminate against Sephardi families in accepting their
daughters to the institutions is not new, and attempts to deal from within the
haredi world have borne no real results. The quota system ordered by senior
Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, according to which at least
30 percent of any secondary Ashkenazi school for girls will be Sephardi, has not
At a Knesset Education Committee meeting in January on the
topic, Itamar Bar-Ezer, who is in charge of the haredi education system in the
capital, said that there were at the time “only” 28 ninth-grade haredi Sephardi
girls without a school in the capital out of their 2,500 peers in that grade.
Bar-Ezer also denied that racial discrimination was what kept these girls out of
the educational system, and explained that it was due to the parents’ refusal to
send their daughters to institutions offered by the city. Head of the committee
MK Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) encouraged the Education Ministry to implement
“budgetary sanctions” against institutions that practice ethnic discrimination,
or even fire their principals. Attempts by Shas ministers and MKs to form a
joint committee composed of representatives from Shas and United Torah Judaism
to solve the problem that is making the ultra-orthodox sector look anything but
good have also led nowhere.
A concrete incentive to the Education
Ministry’s decisive action might be the implicit threat of a petition to the
High Court of Justice, an option that has been brought up on occasion by
attorney Yoav Laloum of the Noar Kahalacha NGO, who forced the ministry to
intervene in the racially segregated Beit Yaakov school in Emmanuel last summer.
Laloum recently posted on his Facebook page a call for contributions to the NGO
“ahead of the petition on the high schools – pass on as much as possible!” There
was no indication as to when he might take such legal action.
educational system is traditionally opposed to external intervention from such
entities as the state and its’ Education Ministry. But these girls’ high schools
are considered an extraterritoriality in the haredi world, run by powerful men
who decree fates – a young woman’s schooling is a very important component of
her pedigree – and do not heed to the traditional authorities in the haredi
world, the Knesset members and even senior rabbis.
The damage caused to
the haredi Ashkenazi public by recalcitrant principals is vast, haredim say, as
it makes the entire group appear racist.
Laloum said in response to
Shoshani’s letter that “after dozens of years of discrimination in haredi
educational establishments, the Education Ministry is finally cleaning things
up. But this measure is too late and too little. The ministry should entirely
cancel the enrollment process, since it is based on quotas that limit Sephardim
and discriminate against them.”