Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Emanuel: Not an Ethnic Schism

What is happening in Emanuel is not an ethnic schism, rather, the result of a social work policy from 40 years ago.
Published: Monday, June 21, 2010 2:40 PM


The conflict that now ensues in the city of Emanuel has little to do with ethnic tensions betwen Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish Israelis.

Speaking from experience as a social work community organizer who worked in the field in the 1970's and 1980's, short-sighted bureaucratic decisions that were made then are coming home to roost, a generation later.

The idea then was to lump all lower class people into new housing units and into new towns, with the hope that they would get along with one another.

The Israel Housing Ministry and what was then called the Israel Welfare Ministry mixed families with social problems with working families, and also mixed strictly observant Sephardic families with less strictly observant Sephardic families, with the hope that they would get along with one another.

As the more strictly observant Sephardic families began to choose more traditional schools for their children, they were not nterested in welcoming the less observant Sephardic families to attend their schools, which maintained more rigid standards in terms of dress code, television watching, etc.

There was a particular Sephardic woman in Emanuel whose daughter was rejected by the school in Emanuel because the standards of religious observance of her daughter and of her family did not meet the requirements of the school.

That Sephardic woman was media savvy.

She contacted the New Israel Fund, the Shas Party and just about every reporter whom she could get a hold of and claimed that she was being discriminated against because she was a Separdic Jew.

The NIF, Shas and the media had a field day, and condemned the school in Emanual for "racist and discriminatory behavior".

The NIF and Shas, strange bedfellows as they are, sued in the Israel High Court of Justice to demand that the Israel High Court of Justice order the school in Emanuel to admit the less observant Separdic girls into their school.

The NIF and Shas were successful in their suit, and the Israel High Court of Justice demanded that any parent who refused to send their children to school under such circumstances be jailed.

And, indeed, 61 sets of parents announced that they were ready to go to jail rather than admit the less observant Sephardic girls to the school.

27 of those sets of parents are themselves Sephardic Jews.

Does that fact affect the NIF and Shas?