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Allegations of racism surface in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox schools

Despite rulings by the Supreme Court and ministerial guidelines, the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox establishment keeps rejecting Sephardic female students, wishing to maintain their separate education system, neighborhoods and marriages.
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is carried on the shoulders by his friends in an "honor gesture" into the Jerusalem central police station on his way to prison, as tens of thousands of religious Israelis protested on June 17, 2010  against a Supreme Court ruling which ordered the jailing of a group of Ashkenazi parents of European origin who have refused to send their daughters to a school with Jewish girls of Middle Eastern, or Sephardic, descent. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAH
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Registration for the Beit Yaakov school in the town of Elad near Rosh HaAyin ended two weeks ago. More than 120 families attempted to sign their daughters up for this all-girls school. Elad is an ultra-Orthodox town. Boys and girls are kept completely separate in all its education frameworks, just as they are in every other ultra-Orthodox settlement throughout the country. The girls from all 30 Ashkenazi (of Eastern European origin) families who registered their daughters for the school were accepted. In contrast, only five girls were accepted from the approximately 100 Sephardic (West Asian) families, who tried to register their daughters there. The rest of the girls hoping to attend were rejected and told that they did not meet the acceptance criteria.

The enormous commotion that ensued reached far and wide within just days. Parents whose daughters were rejected accused the school of segregation against Sephardic Jews. They submitted a petition to the Ministry of Education, demanding that the entire registration process be overturned because the rejection was tainted with discrimination. Meanwhile, the school’s administration insisted that they acted in good faith, and that it was only by coincidence that all the girls who were rejected came from Sephardic families. The town’s rabbis were asked to intervene and the incident made it all the way to the minister of education’s desk.

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