Academics oppose haredi higher education programs

Petition against expansion of haredi academic program says it discriminates against women. 'Petitioners will harm everyone.'

Shimon Cohen ,

haredi man
haredi man
Flash 90

A number of academics submitted a petition last Thursday against the extension of the haredi academic integration program, which features gender separation and other elements which allow haredim to study in a manner consistent with their worldview. The program will be extended over the next five years, and national-religious Jews will be allowed to study in the program in addition to haredim.

Arutz Sheva spoke with Asher Sozin, a lecturer in communications at the haredi campus of Hadassah College, about the significance of the petition and the stand behind it.

On the significance of the program's uniqueness, Sozin said that the differences between haredi and regular academic studies include additional elements that should be taken into account in preparing and presenting the program to haredi students, although the most significant change remains the separation of genders. 11,000 students take part in the program today. The goal is to have 19,000 haredi students within the next five years.

"The petitioners want to prevent this plan because the council understands that there are special needs. If we want to bring a significant number of haredim into academia, a social interest at the economic level, then the framework must be adapted for this constituency. In the name of equality and preventing the exclusion of women, they petition against this program and says that haredim ought to study in academia and sit in university like everyone else. This will not happen, because of lifestyle, rabbinic rulings and Torah concepts. The plan should be adapted to them if they want haredim to enter this market and to integrate into society."

Among the arguments raised by the petitioners is the right of female professors to lecture to haredi students. However, Sozin noted, the main point of the claim is that the plan will lead to the exclusion of female students from the campus' academic space. In his opinion these claims are negligible compared to the general need to integrate haredi students into academia. "After all, the IDF understood that if you want the haredim to integrate, you have to adjust the framework to suit them."

Sozin noted that the program faces significant resistance from the haredi sector, especially from the group known as the Peleg Yerushalmi (literally, Jerusalem Sector). However, the program also enjoys strong support from a number of haredi leaders and rabbis because it is adapted to their needs, and that support has helped the number of haredi students in the program increase.

He said that in the end "this petition will harm everyone" by undermining support among the haredi community for academic study.