Court strikes blow against discrimination of Sephardi haredi girls

Haredi political leaders were swift to denounce the ruling.

A CLASSROOM awaits its pupils. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A CLASSROOM awaits its pupils.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Jerusalem District Court ruled to impose regional registration for two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) high schools for girls in the city of Elad this week, striking a blow against the discrimination of Sephardi haredi girls in Ashkenazi haredi schools.
The regional registration solution is designed to eliminate the de facto quotas of 20% or 30% imposed by Ashkenazi haredi schools for Sephardi girls, according to activists.
This problem has occurred repeatedly in many Ashkenazi haredi girls schools around the country, including in Elad, and stems from racist motives, activists claim.
In the 2014/2015 school year, the Education Ministry, then under the direction of former Yesh Atid MK Shai Piron, intervened in the registration process due to a recurrence of the issue.
Following a legal petition by the Noar Ka’halacha activist group, the situation was eventually resolved for that particular year in an agreement between the Education Ministry and the Elad Municipal Authority, which included a stipulation that regional registration be used for the 2016/2017 school year and onward.
This agreement was given the imprimatur of a court decision, but Noar Ka’halacha found that regional registration had not been used despite this assurance and filed a motion with the courts to find the Elad Municipality in contempt of court.
That motion was granted on Monday, and Judge Nava Ben- Or ordered the Elad Municipal Authority to publish notices declaring that registration for the two high schools will be done on a regional basis for the 2017/2018 school year and onward.
She also ordered the Elad Municipal Authority to pay a NIS 1,000 fine for every day it fails to publish this notice.
“The injustice done by the Elad Municipal Authority and the girls’ high schools in Elad has come to an end. We welcome this precedent of regional registration, and Interior Minister Arye Deri is now obligated to fulfill his promise to implement regional registration around the country,” Noar K’ahalacha said in response.
Haredi political leaders were swift to denounce the ruling.
Elad Mayor Israel Porush said that the ruling “directly contradicts the explicit instructions of the most senior rabbis, to whom we will turn for directions as [to] how to act.”
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni echoed Porush’s comments, saying the events marked “a disgraceful day” for the state.
“The people who determine issues such as regional registration are the leading rabbis, and in no way are they determined by some frustrated guy who wants the court to make the decision,” he told the B’Hadrei Haredim website, in reference to Noar Ka’halacha director Yoav Laloum.
“This undermines all the agreements of the haredi education system. It won’t happen, we all stand behind Mayor Israel Porush and the court will not determine where regional registration will and will not happen,” he declared. “If the court determines things in our education system, tomorrow the courts will determine what will be taught and what [will] not, and who the teachers will be. The courts cannot interfere on issues relating to our education.”
The root of the problem stems from a perception within the Sephardi haredi community that the Ashkenazi haredi schools are better, more prestigious and will lead to better life opportunities within the haredi world.
Although some Sephardi girls are accepted into the Ashkenazi schools, it is often the daughters of well-connected Sephardi families, be it to a national or local politician, prominent rabbi or a donor to the schools.
Some of the brightest Sephardi girls are also accepted, creating an impression that the Sephardi institutions are indeed second class.