Class struggles

ACRI petitions Jerusalem District Court to stop Beit Ya'akov schools' alleged discrimination against Sephardi haredi girls.

haredi girls backs 298.8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi girls backs 298.8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Hundreds of Sephardi haredi girls are rejected by "Ashkenazi" schools, despite high grades and commendable behavior, due to quotas that limit the numbers of Sephardi girls to a maximum of 30 percent, as reported in In Jerusalem ("Learning the hard way, October 28). Following this and other reports of racism, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to put a stop to the discriminatory admissions policies applied in the Beit Ya'akov schools. The petition cites the Jerusalem Municipality and the Education Ministry, as well as Darkei Rahel, Beit Ya'akov Teachers' Center and Beit Ya'akov Teachers' Institute. As IJ has reported, as a result of these discriminatory policies, by last November some 40 Sephardi girls had still not been placed in any schools within the haredi educational system. ACRI is now asking the court to order the ministry and City Hall to supervise the admissions and registration process to Beit Ya'akov schools and to condition the schools' funding on compliance with the law. According to ACRI, the admissions process to prestigious haredi girls' schools is complex and lacks transparency. The criteria include academic achievement, family connections, religious affiliation and ethnic background. City Council member Shmuel Yitzhaki (Shas) told IJ that principals ask leading questions to find out the ethnic backgrounds of applicants. "I have recordings of school principals who talk to kindergarten teachers and ask them questions regarding the girls who graduate their kindergartens. I have recordings in which they ask questions such as, 'What is the color of that girl's skin? Is it fair or dark? Does she have good manners?'" he says. "What does that have to do with the academic capabilities of the girls?" Yitzhaki demands. For many years, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called for the establishment of schools for Sephardi girls. In response, Yitzhaki established the Beit Margalit School (named after the late wife of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef). But, says Yitzhaki, while the academic level at Beit Margalit is high, the students are all Sephardi. Moreover, some parents insist their girls go to "Ashkenazi" schools as they believe they are more prestigious. The plight of Sephardi haredi girls countrywide has become so serious that the Justice Ministry has announced that it would investigate rejection of and discrimination against haredi girls by the Ashkenazi schools since the alleged discrimination constitutes, among other things, a violation of the Pupils' Rights Law, 2000.