Ministry to discipline Beit Shemesh haredi school over electioneering

Students were given letters printed on school letterhead encouraging parents to vote for Mayor Moshe Abutbol.

MOSHE ABUTBUL 370 (photo credit: Chaim Gamliel)
(photo credit: Chaim Gamliel)
The Education Ministry will summon the principal of a Beit Shemesh elementary school to a disciplinary hearing after students were given letters printed on school letterhead encouraging parents to vote for Mayor Moshe Abutbol.
“The school’s actions were quite serious, as it used school property and infrastructure for election campaigning, which is against election laws which clearly prohibit political activity within school frameworks,” a spokesman for the Education Ministry wrote in a statement.
The ministry said it would also review “the laws and procedures pertaining to election campaigning” with school supervisors prior to next week’s election.
The letters, given to students in sealed envelopes at the Darchei Noam school on Tuesday, featured the school’s logo in the header and the logo for the ultra-Orthodox Chen electoral list at the bottom. It was signed by Lavey Freedman and Moshe Pinchas, co-founders of the organization that created the school.
“On behalf of the entire Darchei Noam family and all the children in the school, we ask that everyone show their hakaras hatov [gratitude] and support Mayor Moshe Abutbol and the accompanying Chen party in next week’s municipal election,” the letter read.
In a “clarification” email sent to parents on Wednesday, Freedman and Pinchas said they were speaking as individuals and not on behalf of the school. But they reiterated their support for Abutbol, writing that “it is our obligation to inform the parents of certain facts relating to the upcoming elections.”
A spokesman for Abutbol, Hanoch Bressler, distanced the mayor’s reelection campaign from the Chen letter.
“This is not connected to us at all,” he wrote The Jerusalem Post in an email. “This is an initiative of the Chen party.”
The Chen party could not be reached for comment.
A representative for Eli Cohen, Abutbol’s opponent, praised the ministry’s decision to investigate the actions of the school.
“This attempt to apply unlawful pressure on residents is just another attempt to subvert the democratic process along with other practices implemented by the Abutbul campaign,” the representative said in an email.