Friday, April 9, 2010

Top-down Ashkenazi discrimination

Please explain this to me:

The leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv called for protest measures against the Supreme Court following its ruling in the matter of ethnic separation in the Beit Yaakov religious school in Emanuel.

In a meeting with Deputy Education Minister MK Meir Porush on Thursday, the rabbi said, "This is a dreadful ruling. This should prompt a great outcry."

The ultra-Orthodox public is furious with Judges Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Hanan Melcer, who fined the school and issued a contempt of court ruling against it and also subpoenaed the parents of Ashkenazi students who stopped sending their children to the school.

Here's some background on what the ruling involved:

Ministry of Education Director-General Shimshon Shoshani issued a closure order Sunday against a temporary institution used as a school for Ashkenazi girls who have refused to study together with Sephardi girls.

The Beit Yaacov school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel had separated Sephardi girls from 74 Ashkenazi girls, and the High Court ruled that the Sephardi girls should be incorporated in an equal fashion and without discrimination. However, parents of the Ashkenazi girls opposed the court's decision.

Basically - a Beit Yaakov school in Israel employed various means of separating the Sephardi and Ashkenazi students. The Israeli High Court ordered the school to remove the discriminatory practices, and Ashkenazi parents reacted by keeping their daughters at home rather than send them to school with - G-d forbid! - the Sephardic students. The Ashkenazi students gathered in a "school on the side" arrangement and avoided going to school, but the High Court found this out and issued a contempt of court ruling against the school for failing to compel the Ashkenazi students to attend school. Rav Elyashiv came out against the contempt of court ruling.

Why on earth would Rav Elyashiv oppose the court's ruling? I just don't get it. Here you have a clear case of a school and parents discriminating against students, and the head of the Ashkenazi movement says the court is wrong for acting? What?

This is symptomatic of leaders being unable to acknowledge that rank-and-file members of their groups are doing things wrong (see Church, Catholic, or Union, Orthodox). Okay, so this isn't sexual abuse, but why is it so difficult for a leader to stand up and make an unequivocal statement that certain practices are wrong and need to be stopped? Rav Elyashiv is the person who could most affect the opinions of the chareidi community towards Sephardim, and instead of coming out against discrimination he is enabling it. It saddens and disgusts me.


harry-er than them all said...

the only things i could think of, is either it is not him rather the people around him who are known to manipulate him for their political gains.

now this requires a longer explanation: When they were setting up the Bais Yaakov system back in the 40s in Israel, there was a discussion whether to instruct girls in Havaro Ashkenazis, or Havarah Sepharadi (accents, like sof vs taf). The Gerrer Rebbe who was one the people making the decision, said that if we don't use the sephardi accent, they will not send their girls to Bais Yaakovs, and there will not be religious sephardi girls anymore. His logic was implemented and is credited with having many girls who would have otherwise gone to state-run schools go to the BY system.

Now within the system, depending on the city, there is a large amount of discrimination between/within the schools. There are sephardi ones, litvish ones, gerrer ones, belz ones, etc....
Even within the chareidi yeshivos, with few exceptions, there is a quota to how many sefardim they will let in. The sefardi BYs have a reputation for not being as good, not for the better girls, etc. Whether its a cultural thing or just lack of resources is something which is a taboo subject, and its even a prevalent mentality in America.

That all being said; the chareidi school system while receiving state funding, is run independently. This was part of the Chazon Ish's decision to keep the schooling out of the Misrad HaChinnuch, much to the dismay of ben Gurion who wanted a united school system. Why the Chazon Ish did it was, again a complex political/financial decision. Where I am going with this is, that while on the surface R' Elyashiv's protest of the High Courts ruling seems bigoted and discriminatory, it may have been in protest of their interference of the Chareidi system rather than why the actual ruling was issued.

Ezzie said...

I don't like it at all, but the last point of Harry's might be it - interfering within a private school system is a very bad precedent to allow, regardless of the merits of the particular case at hand.

However wrong the parents might be to have run their own mini-school, to argue that they are compelled to attend a private school is an odd one.

the apple said...

Harry/Ezzie - I suppose you could both be correct, but from the media coverage it doesn't seem to indicate that defying the court ruling had anything to do with court interference in the independent school system. Though we all know you can't rely 100% on media coverage for accuracy.

In terms of whether or not this is an unprecedented involvement of the high court in the chareidi school system, I'd have to do more digging.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

*sigh*, Ashkenazim. They'll never learn...

Jughead's Hat said...

OK, so here's a possible angle:

It has long been argued that Ashkenazim and Sefardim should be educated separately. This is due to the fact that if they are educated together, one of the mesorah's (in this case, sefardic) could be lost. Think about it. Why would a Sefardic person want their child to learn from Ashkenazic sources? Why should they be relegated to only Ashkenazic history and halachos? (Even if they were to learn the Sefardic side of things, it would still be from an Ashkenazi teacher.) The argument is that for the study of Jewish topics, people should embrace their own unique heritage.

This has a few side points:
1) This could be what R' Elyashiv was talking about. It would be interesting to see the exact quote from the most heavily misquoted man in today's society.

2) This doesn't mean that Sefardim should not be allowed to enter their children into Ashkenazi schools. It only means that they should realize that their children will come out with an Ashkenazi education, and may loose interest in their own heritage. I know many Sefardic girls who want to marry Ashkenazim for this exact reason.

3) In no way does this excuse the actions of the Ashkenazic parents. That was flat out wrong. It is not up to them to decide the education of other children.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Listen, from someone who been in that society, I can tell you with certainty that the Ashkenazi Haredim are hardly concerned about Sefaradim "retaining their cultural heritage". They consider Sefaradi halacha a poor excuse for Judaism. The only reason they don't want Sefaradi girls in their Beit Yaakovs is the same reason they don't want Sefaradi boys in their "Kol Yaakov"s; it "brings down" the level of the yeshiva and contaminates the purity of the Ashkenazi students. I can't imagine there being any other reason, but I fully agree with the Sefaradim who say "Why the hell do we want to send our kids here anyway?" about Ashkenazi schools, except in the case of the Dati or Haredi-Leumi schools, where they are actually trying to create a full unity between the Sefaradim and the Ashkenazim, and the Russians and Ethiopians and Americans and Indians ("Bnei Menashe"). In that case it might be wrong to suggest separate schooling, since there are already separate synagogues..

harry-er than them all said...

read this article

To sum up, the breakoff school was one that while called "Bais Yaakov Chassidi" was actually a school that was created for the parents who wanted a more religious environment for their daughters. The BY that exists there was one that had become more modern over the years (not more sephardi) and the parents didn't want that influence for their daughters. The fact that R' Elyashiv said to go against the court ruling was to tell the parents that they could educate their daughters in a manner which they want. Not a sephardi/ashkenazi thing, but rather a chareidi/more modern thing.