Education Ministry mum as haredim show defiance

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv sends letter comparing Sa’ar’s moves to instill core curriculum to those of the authorities in pre-World War II Poland.

311_gideon sa'ar (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_gideon sa'ar
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Haredi defiance of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s declared crackdown on their state-funded schools remained unanswered on Monday, after the spiritual leadership of the Ashkenazi haredim, fearful that Sa’ar would tighten supervision of core curriculum instruction, convened Sunday night to confront what they consider external meddling in a crucial internal matter.
Last week, at the Industry and Trade Ministry’s socioeconomic ministerial conference, Sa’ar stated that “haredi schools that receive 100 percent state funding by law, will learn core curriculum subjects to that extent. This year NIS 21 million were cut from the budgets of schools that do not teach the sufficient core subjects, thus filling the state attorney’s order from six years ago, which was not implemented till now.”
Sunday’s gathering brought together prominent rabbis and educators from both the Lithuanian and hassidic streams at the initiative of spiritual leader of Degel HaTorah faction Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, who hosted the meeting.
Also in attendance were United Torah Judaism’s Knesset members, except for Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv sent a letter comparing Sa’ar’s moves to those of the Polish authorities in pre-World War II Europe.
At the end of the session, resolutions were drafted, according to which “Only Torah sages have the authority to determine the course of study in the Talmudei Torah and all other educational institutions...
Talmud Torah principals should not agree to any external supervision over the curriculum... or any other thing that would mar the independence of the pure education they are charged with.”
“Now everyone – in the courts, Education Ministry and government – heard that the Torah sages have instructed us not to change anything in the haredi education system,” MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said, after the resolutions were read.
The Education Ministry would not comment on the matter until Sa’ar returned to Israel on Tuesday. The Reform Movement in Israel, however, whose affiliated Israel Religious Action Center filed a petition demanding of the state to increase supervision over core curriculum studies in haredi institutions this May, issued a statement on the subject Monday morning.
“The leaders of the haredi public are dooming students of the exempted institutions to a life of ignorance, poverty and total separation from the general Israeli pubic, all under the fake cover of generations of Jewish tradition,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel.
“Let’s hope that the Education Ministry will do more than mere declarations and implement its duty to these children and the Israeli public, by acting to immediately instill core curriculum subjects in all haredi education systems. Realizing this duty is more important to the future and identity of the State of Israel than any kind of declaration of loyalty,” Kariv added.