Breakaway Gerrer community claims expulsion and harassment of pupils

Members of the breakaway Gerrer group have claimed that elements in the mainstream Gur community have threatened, and carried out, various forms of retribution against those who have left.

GERRER HASSIDIM at a wedding in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
GERRER HASSIDIM at a wedding in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
A group of several dozen parents from a splinter group in the Gerrer hassidic community have filed a complaint to the Education Ministry against the alleged expulsion of their children from, or harassment in, schools associated with the community which administers the schools.
Members of the breakaway Gerrer group have claimed that elements in the mainstream Gur community have threatened, and carried out, various forms of retribution against those who have left.
There are now several dozen families whose children have had to find different schools, are currently without a school to go, because of these communal sanctions.
A formal letter of complaint sent this week to the Education Ministry by Boaz Fiel, an attorney of Yigal Arnon and Partners, detailed the various complaints made against the Gerrer institutions.
“There is no doubt that there are instructions to make an unpleasant, threatening atmosphere, in order to get these pupils to leave,” Fiel told The Jerusalem Post.
Fiel’s firm is representing several dozen families from the breakaway community, who are reluctant to disclose their names at this stage due to fears of further retribution.
The letter outlined several incidents within the community since the split, which took place during the recent Sukkot holiday, which give an evidentiary background of a concerted campaign of retribution against those families who have split away.
In one incident, a leading rabbi in the Gerrer community made comments at the Gerrer world center in Jerusalem in front of hundreds of hassidim just before the split became final, saying that the children of anyone who would attend an event or prayer service of the breakaway group would be removed from their school.
Similarly, on the intermediary Shabbat of Sukkot, notices were placed in Gerrer synagogues around the country warning hassidim that they would be cut out of the Gerrer community and its institutions should they participate in any prayer services or events of the splinter group.
And the complaint to the Education Ministry also mentioned the talks given by Rabbi Moshe Taub to educational staff, and on occasion pupils, at various Gerrer schools around the country, following the communal split.
During a recent speech at a girls school in Bnei Brak, Taub said that the split was a rebellion which required people to be driven away from the Gerrer community and its institutions.
“There is a rebellion, and there is Jewish law received from Moses at Sinai. What do we do: we throw out, we fire, ‘separate yourselves from this community,’” said Taub.
“Moses was the most merciful person there was, but even if it’s my cousin, take out a sword and have them kill their brothers,” the rabbi continued, paraphrasing from the Biblical episode of the Golden Calf when Moses and those who gathered to him killed men who had participated in the making of the idol.
A complaint against Taub has been filed to the police.
The letter then detailed how children of parents associated with the breakaway community have experienced “bullying and public humiliation” at their schools, while some parents have been told simply to stop sending their children to their schools.
As a result, several dozen children of families in the breakaway community do not currently have a school to attend and have remained at home since the resumption of the school term after the Sukkot holiday.
One example of this behavior was the principal of the Beit Yaakov Hassidi school associated with the Gerrer community in Jerusalem’s Ezrat Torah neighborhood.
The principal allegedly told parents belonging to the breakaway community that their children that they could not continue to study at the school.
In some instances, the reason given for the expulsions by the principal was because the so called “Technology Committee” of the Gerrer community had not permitted parents to use particular cell phones, although such complaints were only raised after the split occurred in the community, and not previously.
The principal denied a request for comment from The Jerusalem Post, saying she did not have the time or inclination to speak to the media.
There are several laws and regulations of the Education Ministry which make it illegal to expel a pupil from their school on the basis of their communal, national or religious association or identity, which Fiel said must be enforced by the ministry.
In his letter, he demanded that the ministry contact the managerial staff of the relevant schools and instruct them to immediately end the recrimination against children from the breakaway community
It was also demanded of the ministry that those children expelled from their schools be allowed to return if they so wish, or found an alternative school if they do not want to return.
Fiel also noted that teachers and other educational staff working in some Gerrer institutions had been suspended or threatened with dismissal due to the inter-communal conflict.
The Education Ministry said in response to a request for comment that the claims in the letter were currently under examination.