'I'm rejected by schools because I'm Sefardi'

In emotional letter, Haredi girl, 14, tells of discrimination in acceptance to Haredi girls' high schools, and its consequences

Shai Landesman,

חרדיות בנות נשים חרדים
חרדיות בנות נשים חרדים
פלאש 90

By this time of year, most Haredi girls on the cusp of graduating elementary school know which institutions they will be attending next year. It's a time of excitement and anticipation as most girls look forward to what promises to be a bright future.

Most, but not all.

In a heartbreaking letter sent to Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Tzvika Cohen, who holds the Haredi Education portfolio, and first published by Kikar Hashabbat, a Haredi elementary school student of S'fardi background writes about her experience as someone who hasn't been accepted by any high school due to her ethnic background, and lack of family connections.

Some excerpts:

"I've stayed at home the past few days. I don't go to school. How can I listen to all my friends making plans for next year while I know that there's no place that wants me. How can I go to school? How?

"I have nowhere to go next year, but I also have nowhere to go this year. Every time I go to school I get hurt by my friends. They don't mean to do it, they just ask where I'm going for high school and instead of answering, my throat catches, and I just want to go home, bury myself under my blanket and pillow where only G-d can hear me and just cry and cry."

She goes on to talk about her feeling of helplessness in the face of these circumstances. "I thought about writing a letter to the principal of the school [that rejected me], but I know he wouldn't pay attention to it. Who am I anyway? Just some S'fardi girl. Why should he pay any attention to me, my tears, or the tears of my mother and father--they're also just simple S'fardi people, with no connections.

"'We're sorry, you're daughter isn't right for this school' was the response we got. At first I thought it was a mistake. I was naive, I thought that maybe the computer printed the wrong letter, or that the mail came to the wrong place. I thought about a thousand more things, just not the truth. I wasn't accepted, because I'm S'fardi."

The issue of discrimination against S'fardi girls in the Beit Ya'akov school system is an annual hot topic in Israeli-Haredi circles, with many calling for action against those who make decisions that leave many girls with no school to attend, something that has serious negative effects on their self-esteem. The girl writing the letter implores Deputy Mayor Cohen to do something to help her and all the others sharing her plight. "I don't really know how to end this letter. I have no demands; I haven't the right to make demands. Anyway, what would any demand I make mean? But I beg you to act. Act where no one else has. Be our angel of salvation, all of us lost souls who have been cruelly cast by the wayside for no reason at all.

"And when you're working, think about me, the girl from your city, who's worked as hard as she could, who stayed away from bad friends and was raised in the way of Torah, and is now being trampled upon. Think about giving me special treatment, not those who have fancy connections."