Emanuel: Further Reading

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Having now spoken both with “RG” and Rabbi Pesach Zaide, the latter being a very involved parent working with the Beis Yaakov HaChasidi of Emanuel, I have enough additional information that it’s worth an additional post.

First of all, those who claim that Sephardim are not involved with or do not approve of this school are flatly contradicted by those actually living in Emanuel. Ezra Gerashi, the mayor, is of Yemenite heritage and, says RG, in favor of the Beis Yaakov HaChasidi. Both sources named several Sephardi Rabbanim whose children and grandchildren attend the school. The actual percentage of Sephardi children, says Rabbi Zaide, is approaching 30% — but does not count those like RG who have “mixed” lineage. He told me “every time someone asks this question, I feel sick. Am I supposed to investigate whose parent is this or that?” He could not understand why anyone would have a problem with another child in the classroom that wasn’t well-founded on grounds of religious standards, specifically by contrast to racists in the US.

So, this being the case, who sued? The case before the Supreme Court was not initiated by parents in Emanuel, but by Y. Lallum of Jerusalem. He is known to Chinuch Atzmai, says Rabbi Zaide. “Every time a Sephardi kid is rejected from any school for whatever reason, Lallum charges racism.” Rabbi Zaide stopped short of approving a direct comparison to Al Sharpton, but from the information given I am not sure why.

The Ministry of Education received the complaint of racism when Labor’s Yuli Tamir was the Minister, and Shulamit Amichai was the mankal, director. The latter appointed Mordechai Bass of the Mevaker HaMedina (national investigations) to go visit and investigate. Far from being Charedi, none of the above are observant. Bass spent three days in Emanuel speaking with residents, and was unable to find any applicant who was rejected. Even those parents who were not invited to the organizing meetings could have applied, and chose not to do so. Thus he concluded that there was no grounds for a charge of racism.

This is when Lallum took the case to the Supreme Court, which still operates under Aharon Barak’s dictum that the Court can hear a case brought by anyone about anything — unlike most countries, such as the US, where a person has to be affected by something in order to bring it to court. And, furthermore, Lallum encouraged two local families to sue in civil court for financial damages for “discrimination.” One of the plaintiffs in that second case is a British gentleman named Beller, who looks, Rabbi Zaide says, no more Sephardi than his name. The fact that he took a Jewish school to secular court without a Beis Din means that his family’s standards of observance are different, to say the least, from those expected by the school. This just gets more and more unbelievable as we go.

The problem, when they hit the Supreme Court, is that this is Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinish’s turf, and their animosity towards Charedim hardly needs elaboration. The lead judge in this case, Admon Levi, was formed from the same mold. Rabbi Zaide said that it was obvious from the judge’s questions that his decision was made before opening arguments — and RG informed me that several Sephardi parents petitioned to be able to appear before the court, and Levi refused to meet with them.

The reason why the Moetzes in the United States was asked to become involved by its counterpart in Israel, is because it is very clear to all concerned that the Supreme Court is using this case to stick its foot in the door of Charedi education in Israel, which until now has operated with complete independence. It has nothing to do with racism or the children of Emanuel.

It is well-known that Israel’s education system is in terrible disarray. In standardized tests, it is on par with that of Thailand (according to previous Deputy Minister Michael Melchior). By comparison, the independent Chinuch Atzmai network is a jewel. The last thing it needs is the involvement of the notoriously activist and anti-religious Supreme Court.

I still do not say that I know the facts, because I have only heard two voices on one side of the story. But I do not understand those who ran to open their mouths and cry racism before learning more than I have gathered over the past few days. It doesn’t matter who the writer is or what honorific precedes his name — to join in the cries of racism without investigating the facts is not merely the height of irresponsibility, but is likely to be hotza’as shem ra (baseless slander) against a community and, according to the Moetzes, tomech yad (joining hands) with those who would destroy Torah education in Israel. Isn’t there a mitzvah about preserving our souls?

[Comments will only be accepted from those with personal knowledge of the situation and facts in Emanuel. Please email your comment, with full name and phone number not for publication.]

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2 Responses

  1. sammy says:

    First, I have friends in Emanuel, one of whom happens to have a daughter in the school in question. They are a religious Yemenite family, and wanted a chariedi education for their children. I’ve spoken with him, and he assures me that there is no racism in the acceptance process for the school that he’s aware of. They had no problems whatsoever getting their daughter into school. While, sadly, we know it happens that schools do discriminate based on ethnic background, I am assured by my friend that this is not the case at Bais Yaakov HaChasidi of Emanuel.

    I think, however, that there is a point to consider here. A bit of background… I am an oleh from the U.S., Sefardi, religious but not chareidi, and I want a good education for my children. We live in a city in Israel with limited education options, but among them are a couple of very good schools. My son and daughter went to the same elementary school, a mamlachti dati (religious public school) that has won the National Education Prize for the last two years, marking it as the best public elementary school in the country. Both were in what is called the “Torani” track, which is supposed to have a stronger emphasis on limudei kodesh, and a different sort of classroom environment than the other classes. An interesting side note; many non-religious families send their children to religious schools in Israel because they want the kids to have a “Jewish background” and knowledge they wouldn’t get at a secular school, even though they watch TV, go to soccer games, etc on Shabbat. My daughter’s “Torani” class had a majority of non-shomer shabbat girls, and it created an atmosphere I really would have preferred she not be in day in and day out. Even if she comes home to a kosher house with no TV, she’s still absorbing what she hears around her. But there were very limited alternatives. Not being Chareidi, Bais Yaakov wouldn’t accept us, but I don’t begrudge them that, for exactly the reason I wasn’t happy about my daughter’s classroom. If a school can create a homogeneous environment by selecting students whose hashkafa is similar, and is not bound by law or finances to accept everyone, they should have that right!

    This is what happens in Emanuel, from what I understand, as well as countless other private schools, and IT IS A GOOD THING. The selection is not based on the ethnic background of the families, but on a religious standard the school maintains for the benefit of its students. It’s been blown completely out of proportion to the point of stupidity by people who should never have gotten involved and have nothing to do with the school in the first place.

  2. Yaakov Menken says:

    Two posts were sent to me, both interviews with Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Bar-Lev, the Rav of Emanuel. They confirm the information above, adding that “Even prior to implementing the separation, we spoke with HaGaon HaRav Badani Shlita, who explained this must be done. We decided prior to the implementation that any disagreements would be brought before R’ Badani to render a decision. Therefore, all questions, inquiries and complaints should have been directed to the rav. The rav also released a letter prohibiting anyone from speaking with the media or taking the matter to the High Court, explaining that this entire matter must be addressed internally and by a beis din if need be.”

    One interview, in B’Chadrei Chadarim, is in Hebrew; the other is from BaKehilla but has been translated.