NGO petitions for Sephardi schoolgirls' rights

Noar Kahalacha puts request to High Court that injunction be issued against Ministry of Education for discrimination in haredi schools.

haredi girls 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi girls 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An equal-rights NGO asked the High Court of Justice on Thursday to end discrimination in haredi schools.
Yoav Laloum, director of the Noar Kahalacha organization, submitted a petition requesting that an injunction be issued against the Education Ministry and its minister, Gideon Sa’ar.
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The petition demands that the respondents explain why they have not “fulfilled their legal obligation to use all means available to them to eliminate discriminatory practices against Mizrahi girls wishing to enroll in haredi schools.”
According to Laloum, data and documents collected by Noar Kahalacha and submitted in the petition demonstrate that a de facto 30 percent quota for Sephardi girls exists in many haredi high schools, particularly in the most prestigious schools in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit.
Speaking to the press at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Thursday, Laloum said he had talked that morning with a girl who was rejected by a haredi school and is currently not enrolled at all.
“You would not have wanted to be me during this conversation,” Laloum said, visibly emotional. “The girl cried in front of me, and for what? What did she do? All she wants to do is learn.”
The petition claims that there is a “clear division between ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ in the haredi secondary education system in 2011, a system licensed by the state and funded and supported by the state.
There are ghettoes for the ‘black-Mizrachim,’ and there are institutes which insist at all costs that the number of Mizrachim not exceed, ‘God forbid,’ 30%.”
Relating to one data set gleaned from a Jerusalem school examined by Noar Kahalacha, the petition declares that “for all intents and purposes a form of apartheid segregation exists in this school between Ashkenazim and Sephardim.”
Although the schools in question receive the majority of their funds from the state, the petition alleges the Ministry of Education and the local authorities do not properly supervise the registration process, despite being aware of the issue.
Laloum denounced the ultra- Orthodox school administrators as “thieves and criminals,” and called on MKs Eli Yishai, Ariel Attias and the Shas movement as a whole to join him and help their community on this issue.
He denied accusations that there was any betrayal of the haredi community by taking the issue to the High Court, which traditionally shuns secular courts, saying that all other avenues had been pursued and that he had reached out to political lobbyists, MKs and haredi political parties to no avail.
“No one wanted to touch this hot potato, so now we have no choice but to submit this petition,” he said.
Laloum also said that he had received widespread support, including rabbinical backing, from across the religious spectrum, including from Ashkenazim.
“You have no idea how much the Ashkenazi community is disgusted with this corrupt behavior of the school administrators, which is also given the full support by the political representatives of the haredi community in the Knesset.”
In 2008, Laloum and Noar Kahalacha petitioned the High Court regarding the Beit Ya’acov primary school for girls in the settlement of Emmanuel. Hassidic parents at the school had established a separate track for girls from more observant families, which in practice meant that the overwhelming majority of girls in the hassidic track were Ashkenazi. The two tracks were taught in separate classrooms.
It was claimed that the separate tracks were established because the Sephardi families were less stringent in their observance of Jewish law than the Ashkenazi parents, and so negatively influence the Ashkenazi girls.
The High Court rejected these claims and demanded that the school re-integrate.
Renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem, who spoke out strongly against the segregated school, criticized the Ministry of Education on Thursday, accusing it of “working hand in hand with the school administrators and the haredi political parties to silence the issue and perpetuate discrimination.”
The Shas party, he said, was founded to uproot this kind of phenomenon, but does nothing apart from disseminating spin about legislation it is seeking to propose.