Sisterhood Blog

Religious Girls' School Fails To Integrate Ashkenazic and Sephardic Students

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

A religious girls’ school in the Israeli town of Emmanuel — a school that first made headlines in 2008 when it was discovered that Sephardic students were separated from Ashkenazic students both in and out of the classroom — is back in the news. Though its ethnic segregation was declared illegal by the Supreme Court, the school has yet to comply with orders for integration.

The two groups had separate curricula, separate classrooms, separate staff rooms and separate yards delineated by a cement wall to prevent interaction. Following a national outcry, led by the Sephardic feminist organization Achoti, and the organizations Noar KaHalakha and Tmura, the courts intervened and eventually ruled that the segregation was illegal. But the school last week was declared in contempt of court and ordered to pay a 5,000 NIS ($1,400) fine for every day that it remain segregated.

According to Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, of United Torah Judaism, any Sephardic girl who wants to be in the “hassidic” track can get in, as long as she agrees to speak Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent and give up Sephardic customs at home. Segregation has been “justified” on the grounds that the Sephardic girls are on a “lower spiritual level” than Ashkenazic girls. Porush claims that 30% of the girls in the “hassidic” track have Sephardic origins and have agreed to the school’s ethnic demands, while the 74 girls who are separated out are the ones who apparently refuse to comply.

“The girls get the message that they are deformed, that they are less good, that there is something inherently wrong with them,” Yael Ben Yefet, one of the leaders of Achoti, said during a protest in 2008 outside the Supreme Court.

“This repulsive and mentally abusive treatment towards Mizrahi students has already inflicted profound damage,” writes Attorney Yael Biton. “The students have expressed deep feelings of pain, discrimination, shame, confusion, poor self-esteem, and inferiority to their Ashkenazic fellows.”

Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, a senior leader of the Ashkenazic community in Emmanuel, has declared the Supreme Court order for equality “dreadful,” and has been encouraging his followers to disobey the ruling and even go to jail.

In addition, the Slonimer rebbe ordered his followers who live in Emmanuel not to abide by the court ruling and said, “I am willing to be the first to sit in prison over this issue….Jews sat in Russian prisons over their children’s education.”

It’s not only just Emmanuel, but also in other religious girls’ schools around Israel. In the Bais Yaakov school in Elad, for example, parents protested to ensure that a Sephardic girl would not be allowed in to the class. Even in Jerusalem, 200 Sephardic girls were left without a school to go to back in 2006 when the Bais Yaakov schools refused to admit them. “In the Emanuel case,” writes Ben Yefet, “Tmura and Achoti have, for the first time, been given permission by Sephardic rabbinical authorities to take this very disturbing issue to a secular court due to its severe circumstances.”

But the battle is hardly won, according to Ben Yefet: “The main problem in combating anti-Mizrahi discrimination in the education system is that this discrimination is largely hidden, and there is little or no public awareness of this issue.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sephardic, Segregation, Meir Porush, Integration, Emmanuel, Emanuel, Ashkenazic

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.