The Israeli Supreme Court has become embroiled in another religious controversy. Last week, the Court struck down subsidies for religious students. Now, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews are protesting in various cities after the Court ordered the jailing of some Ashkenazi parents of European descent who refused to send their daughters to a school with girls of Middle Eastern, or Sephardi, descent. Ironically, both groups are protesting the order.
The protesters attacked the premise that secular law should govern in such disputes, holding banners proclaiming “The Torah Rules!”
Israel is struggling with this conflict. There is no true separation of temple and government, but many Israelis and some judges have been pushing for greater separation. The debate appears a religious version of our own debate over “separate but equal.”
There are reports that the protesters are considering the creation of a private school outside of the public educational system to allow them to continue to separate Ashkenazi from Sephardi.
The case directly involved the Slonim Hassidic sect of the Ashkenazi. Notably, the article states that “the Slonim subdivide into two groups which both follow different rabbis — the Slanim, or “blacks”, who revere a rabbi with a black beard, and the Slonim, or “whites,” after their white-bearded rabbi.” After resolving the current fight with the Sephardi, that could ultimately make for an interested separate but equal case of blacks and whites.
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