Ashkenazi and Sephardi Unite Over Separation: Israeli Supreme Court Under Fire For School Ruling

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.

For the story, click here.

20 thoughts on “Ashkenazi and Sephardi Unite Over Separation: Israeli Supreme Court Under Fire For School Ruling”

  1. I met an Atheist as a child who was a devout Jew and from the first tribe of Israel. Hes sadness was extreme because he knew of the wish of his people. As long as there are laws concerning religion there will be those who abuse those laws and exploit them for personal gain. We can’t make people want to live, we can’t make people want to die. We can make people stop using laws to force a religious view over another religious view by taking the law out of the hands of the ones that would do just that. Sex Laws are of this type of law that is abused by everyone and have no place in any society.
    I hope the whole bunch of them get together and get sex laws dumped right back into the laps of ever proponent that ever supported this law, especially for what it has turned into to. FCC devices? Use to mark the people like dogs, encouraging less attentive caregivers and pushing off the watch onto people monitoring with their master cylinder in hand to mace and teaser or shot with rubber bullets and kill over sex? The planning of champions? I think not! Almost 90thousand kids die each day. One every 30 seconds and these people want to sell you something to prevent sex from accruing in someones home across the street? No they don’t. It’s never been about sex and the old shame and blame game has got to end.
    I was chipped as a child without my knowledge and chipped as an adult in prison in California as an ultimatum w/no alternative. To sell a gizmo to force a policy for a problem magnified by agencies in a campaign to isolate the use of a bureaucracy over religion is the doing of the designer of such policy and a band aid on uncaved flesh for an ideology that manifests damage for profit offering a solution where the operation may be a success and the whole family dies. I have seen 1st hand what a waist of effort and resources these laws are and the people that use them have there own selves to blame, not another. They say “O” I was put in a truck and taken somewhere to be a sex slave. Transference from a life to a life, no. We all have to eat/drink/breath/poo/piss to survive and survival is not always pretty. Against or will? Not likely when the fact is if we can walk/shout/write/sign/communicate we can make a change for ourselves and sex is a form of communication too, there is no way oral sex can be forced on someone with teeth and kids play with themselves and others, even blackmailing others, and others can put them up to such outcomes for fun and profit. No law can cover that. No law can be written that puts a person who has a death wish for themselves or others in charge of decisions concerning life choices. I had no choice, I am no one placed in a war without my consent and I will win it because the primes is death and death is off the table unless you need to kill someone for sins, then who is that one. I challenge the world to explain who put the 1st one in me without my consent and then wants something more when it’s not about me its only the made up problem by enablers of a poorly designed structure of law to cover up ones own self loathing, able to punish ones self by revisiting what is ones teachings that enable genocidal acts which complete a chain of abuse preserved as a threat when being born is a bigger threat by far with 90K dead each day on earth it seems to me in my humble opinion our lives are what we make them and Albinos being hunted for bones and chopping up one another to appease a god, is more about geography/culture/religious and no city or town function so regimented. War is a wasit of money/time/effort, and it is our largest resource? Then we make laws about sex while the opasity of a veil get someone jailed, and the writtings are so deeply in question do you think there was no mistake when all are born into sin so the books say so which is the way? Crossroads? No, just the realization of ages, and to some even that means nothing.

  2. But which one comes from Poland and which one comes from Germany? Isn’t that the real issue?

  3. Hidfleet: You wrote: “There is an interesting theory that outside forces should not intercede against radical religious groups because they are bound to destroy themselves with no outside assistance whatsoever.”

    That was pretty much Napoleon’s theory — be nice to the Jews and they will assimilate, attack them and they will unite and be stronger. I think you’re onto something. As I just wrote, Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have previously shown little interest in politics other than protecting their schools and gathering support for their students. Governments liked to use them in coalitions because they stayed out of national security issues and, relatively, their coalition-entry demands were dirt cheap compared to secularist parties. The peace-niks in Israel might reconsider their anti-Orthodox position. If they realized that Charedi Jews are less of a threat than the more modern Orthodox who live in the territories, work, and serve in the Army — and take the hardest line against territory concessions — the secularists might also recognize that Charedi bashing is merely pushing the Charedi parties to support some religious elements of the Likud party and the Shas and the Jewish Home parties — both of whom hold coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitanu party with great suspicion.

  4. Bruce,

    Excellent points. I think this is what I heard on NPR yesterday. These folks sorta live side by side and yet they do not want to be so called: “integrated”.

    If this is the way that they wish to live, so be it. it is not for me to say.

  5. Isabel: Your points, even if true, really have nothing to do with the case, except in one way: Your comment mirrors the Israeli High Court’s paranoia that something has to be done to reduce the rights of Orthodox Jews, even if that means making factual findings without taking evidence from all sides, or allowing an activist a cause of action when he has no direct interest in the case. The reports you have read misstate some facts: Orthodox Jews — that is, all religiously observant Jews including Charedi and the so-called Modern Orthodox (which is actually a term that encompasses a broadly divergent population) — number about 20 percent of the Israeli population, and they are growing. While there are professional yeshiva students “on the dole,” there are also a great many more Orthodox Jews who serve in the army, hold down jobs, and pay taxes. When you poll the working, serving Orthodox Jews about support for married yeshiva students, there is great support. In addition, these schools are a tremendous source of foreign currency for Israel as they have wealthy supporters overseas (myself included). As for the birth rate — Orthodox Jews and Palestinian Moslems and Christians have about the same birth rate (although I’ve heard that since 2000 the Arab birth rate in the West Bank is declining for the first time in decades).

    I would suggest that discrimination by secularists against observant Jews may backfire. Until recently, charedim showed little interest in politics. But, with growing grievances, a growing birthrate, and majority or plurality presence in many Israeli cities, Charedi Jews have recognized that the best way to protect their values and rights is to run for offices and vote their interests. In national elections, the Charedi parties such as Degel HaTorah (aka Gimmel) have scored 6% or 7% of the votes and seats in the Knesset. But that percentage could grow with bigger demographics, and Gimmel has been successful in winning mayorships in local elections. I would imagine that some compromise between secularists and the observant community could forestall a bigger presence in politics by the so-called ultra-Orthodox. The Emanuel case would have been a good place to start.

  6. Isabel Darcy,

    I am sure that they would like to reduce this but as a group these folks generally have between 8 to 10 children per family. I think it is the ones from Europe as opposed to Arabic country’s.

  7. Israel is a religious state. The ultra-orthodox exercise much more power over the Israeli legal system and legislation than their numbers justify.

    I read another article that discussed the fact that a very high percentage of orthodox men are unemployed and receive subsidies so they can read the Torah, etc. The author of the article is an Israeli economist who said that these orthodox subsidies are ultimately going to ruin the Israeli economy, as the Ultra-Orthodox birth rate is astronomical compared to secular jews.

    I have Israeli secular friends and there is a movement to reduce the power the ultra-orthodox have over Israeli law and society.

  8. There is an interesting theory that outside forces should not intercede against radical religious groups because they are bound to destroy themselves with no outside assistance whatsoever.

  9. The linked stories do not represent what really happened and what the issues are. The story with Emanuel is a long one…

    Emanuel is home to a community of Slonimer Hasidim and a community of Sephardim (Jews from mostly Moslem countries). The majority of Sephardic Jews in Emanuel are NOT religious, although many are. There is only one elementary school for girls there — the Beit Yaakov school in controversy. Beit Yaakov (known in the US as “Beis Yaakov”) is an international network of religious Jewish schools with a particular curriculum. In Israel there are both secular and religious public schools, but Emanuel only has enough people to support a single elementary school. Accordingly, until this lawsuit came into being, the school had 2 tracks – a religious track which serviced the religious girls i.e. the Slonimers and a handfull of Sephardi girls who are religious – and a secular-only track which serviced the non-religious girls – all of them Sephardim.

    Both tracks were quite happy with this arrangement.

    The plaintiff, Mr. Lelom, an individual whose activities are financed by an anti-Orthodox organization, has no personal interest in Emanuel and does not live there. In US courts, his suit would be thrown out for lack of Constitutional standing (i.e. no personal injury). His lawsuit is motivated by an agenda to vilify Orthodox Jews as racists, and not at all to promote the interests of the Sephardim in Emanuel. About 80% of the parents from the non-religious track signed a petition to stop the lawsuit because they are happy to keep their daughters at the school, although “segregated.” The teaching staff for both tracks of the Beit Yaakov consisted of Slonimer mothers – those now going to jail – and so Lelom’s victory has left the ‘vicitimized’ Sephardi girls with no teachers and has done nothing to help their education.

    When this lawsuit began, the Slonimer parents consulted with the Slonimer Rebbe (their spiritual leader) who advised them against mixing the tracks and bringing their daughters into contact with such unwanted secular influences as mixed dancing, television, non-kosher food, texting, etc. The parents sent a request to the court to allow them to explain their position. This request was ignored, and until 1 1/2 months ago, all of the proceedings were based only off of information provided by Mr. Lelom. In the meantime, the parents currently facing jail for contempt of court took their daughters out of school, and started ‘home schooling’ them. A right that they would have in the U.S., but not in Israel.

    The week before Lag B’Omer, the Slonimer parents were subpoenaed to court to deal with their ‘contempt of court’ for not integrating the classes (and for not sending their daughters to a recognized school).

    In court, the parents explained that their decision to keep the classes separate was not racist – in fact there were Sephardi girls in the religious class! – it was merely a religious matter. One track preferred a sheltered religious approach to education, and the other did not.
    (One parent – a ZAKA volunteer [ZAKA is an organization of volunteers who you frequently see in news film of terrorist bombings; they are EMTs and also collect all vestiges of human remains in accordance with Jewish law]– went further and said that racism is obviously not part of their lives – when he ‘cleans up’ after a bombing he cleans up the dark skin of Sephardim with the same broken heart that he cleans up white skin European — aka Ashkenazi — Jews.)

    The court was taken aback by hearing this ‘new’ information and ordered a compromise – that they create an acceptance board with members agreed to by both parties, kick all the girls out of school, re-accept them and place them in an appropriate track via this acceptance board. Lelom did not accept this compromise. And so the parents were again ordered to send their girls to Beit Yaakov and mix the classes.

    Despite the fines and threat of jailing, the parents adhered to the Slonimer Rebbe’s advice. They were told that the court would not oppose them if they decided to send their daughters to school outside of Emanuel. However, when they arranged for their daughters to attend a Beit Yaakov in Bnei Brak – the Education Ministry threatened to close that school down if they accepted any girls from Emanuel. The court would not allow the Slonimers to open a private school in Emanuel either.

    The rest of the Charedi Orthodox world has joined the Slonimers in this issue, I think, because they are fed up with decision after decision made by the Israeli High Court contrary to Jewish Law — decisions I believe a U.S. Federal court would not touch. The parents are showing their willingness to go to jail today, and religious Jews are demonstrating on their behalf in large numbers, in much the same manner as civil rights demonstrators have shown willingly gone to jail to make a point in the US.

    I know for a fact that Chasidic Jews are not anti-Sephardic in this case or any other. A friend of mine, who is Sephardic, sends his children to a Sephardi religious school in Brooklyn and its principal is a Chasidic Jew. Moreover, there were Sephardim — including an Ethiopian — Jewish students murdered a couple of years ago at a terrorist attack on a Jerusalem yeshiva, and they were all equally mourned by huge crowds of Charedi Orthodox Jews. If there is discrimination, it is discrimination against secularist culture, which in parts of Israel is seen reversed — religious Jews are discriminated against. As for Sephardim — the Israeli High Court thinks so highly of their integration that their is only one Sephardic Jew on the High Court (and only one Arab judge).

    This is the kind of case that should have been settled out of court. The plaintiff, however, has refused. That should be kept in mind.

  10. frankdawg: How dare you refer to the Flying SPAGHETTI Monster with the slur “r*m@n”!?!?!? You demean his great pasta-ness by using the name of something so base and disgusting it hardly qualifies as a “noodle.” I clearly must send my children to a different school than yours so they are never exposed to such repulsive blasphemy!

    May YOU, sir, be touched by His noodly appendages!!! Good day.

  11. With no disrespect to anyone’s deity, He or She must certainly be laughing (along with Buddha) at the folly of humans.

  12. Gyges – your faith is blasphemy! Only mine is the one, true, word by which we MUST abide in all things.

    May you be touched by His noodlie appendages – Ramen

  13. Wow! It’s hard to understand how people who are bigoted against one another can’t seem to get along with their neighbors isn’t it?

  14. And what surprises you about this type of behavior? Got Ashkenazi? Got Sephardi?

    Well at least they have not gotten as stupid as Arizona that claims that they “Got Mexicans.”

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