Principal Threatens Student with Social Isolation

lonely tree(This is a similar, but different case than the more highly publicized Emanuel case. That one made it to court.) When Israeli parents in the religious system talk about school choice, they say they want education according to their religious standards. But in every conflict, you find that the main concern is not what the children will learn, but with whom they will learn. Parents firmly assert their right to reject students from the “wrong kind” of family.

At the beginning of the school year, a Beit Yaakov (haredi girl’s school) in Beit Shemesh refused to accept a group of neighborhood girls to first grade. (The girls all happened to be Sephardi. The school is mainly Ashkenazi.) Most of the girls found places in other schools, but one did not. Until Chanukah, the girl sat at home. Finally, at the instruction of the education ministry, she was put into the neighborhood school. The parents at the school responded by going on strike.

On Keren Neubach’s radio program on Channel II yesterday, a tape was aired with the principal’s remarks to the parents.  The tape is from a couple of months ago. It seems to have been taped near the end of the parents’ strike.

This site, that reports on the Israeli welfare department,  contains the full radio interview, along with segments of the tape. It’s in Hebrew, but the principal’s tone of voice can be understood in any language. The tape of the principal begins at 1:50 minutes; you can tell from the shift in audio quality. For some reason the blogger posted it as a video, and chose to accompany it with distasteful pictures. Still, I thank the blogger for putting it up.

Here is my translation of the principal’s remarks:

You, as a mother, are insisting on sending her to a place where she’s not wanted . . . No child wants to sit next to her, no one will be friends with her, no one will go to her house to play, no child will lend her a notebook, no one will approach her at recess, everyone will know that this is the girl, that because of her, we all sat at home for so long.

How can you, as a mother,  send your daughter to a place where she is clearly not wanted? not only by me, not only by the teachers, and not only by the rabbi of the neighborhood—all 280 students don’t want her.”

Your daughter will be socially isolated. No girl will sit next to her.  No one will invite her over. She’s going to go into a class that has 26 girls, she’ll be number 27.  The other class has 32—in either case the class will have an odd number. Your daughter will sit by herself.  And in two months when the teacher changes the seating arrangements, your daughter will sit by herself, again.

280 girls are sitting at home. For many of them it’s very hard, the parents are working. No one knows when this will end, I also don’t know. But all of them (kuuulam), did it happily (besimcha). Now if that girl calls on the phone to play, and the mother asks who is on the phone, will she let her daughter play with the girl, that because of her they all stayed home?

She’ll be a museum exhibit. All the girls will look to see who this girl is who caused the commotion. When every [apartment] building has 50 girls living there, what mother would send her daughter to play with a girl that has a “baayah chinuchit” (educational or discipline problem) at home?”

The man that Neubach interviewed, who brought the tape (I didn’t catch his name), claims to know the reason the girl was rejected but won’t reveal it to protect the family’s privacy.  He and Neubach refer to a “social problem” at home but the principal clearly says what I quoted above, “educational problem.”  “Baayah chinuchit” could mean anything at home that conflicts with the school’s message, ranging from a mother who wears skirts that are too tight to not being Sabbath observant. I don’t think it would refer to something more serious. The principal could have meant that the educational problem was the mother herself, who insisted on sending the daughter to a school where she wasn’t wanted, but I didn’t read it that way.

The principal has been called for a discipline hearing.

Followup post:  Sending a Child to a School Where She’s Not Wanted

Photo credit: normis

Related Posts:

Children of Short-Skirt Wearers Threatened in Bnei Brak

Ethiopian Integration in Petach Tikva Religious Schools


  1. Ms. Krieger says

    Wow. It is shocking that a principal would behave so. To publicly besmirch an entire family’s reputation and threaten a little girl with isolation! That principal dishonors the education profession.

    Why are Sephardim considered “undesirable” by the parents in this school? It seems like an entire contingent of Sephardi girls was turned away, rather than just this particular family (whatever the perceived baayah chichunit might be.)

    I am fascinated by how blatant this discrimination seems to be. How does Israeli society tolerate it? Strange in a country where everyone must truly hang together or shall assuredly hang separately (to paraphrase Ben Franklin).

  2. In Israel we have learned “to agree to disagree”. That means that different communities can more or less lead their lives the way they want to – this includes mainly the large orthodox and Arab communities.

    Both are very discriminating towards various groups (sephardi, women and children) but enforcing the law in each case would be impossible for the government.

    Racism is a big problem for Ashkenazi orthodox Jewry, I have no idea how such people can dare enter a synagogue…

  3. This is unbelievable. Poor girl. Even poorer are the shallow hearts of those who would discriminate so violently against someone for such a banal reason. Their so-called morality is a sham if they don’t possess such basic principles as love, acceptance, and peace.

  4. You’ve been linked.

  5. anon for this says

    How is it possible that any parents would want to send their daughters to a school with such a pricipal? It’s difficult to imagine anything this child could have done to justify such treatment (unless she murdered or attempted to murder someone).

    Of course the principal is, in a sense, guilty of attempted murder, a la “one who embarrasses another in public is considered as if he murdered him.”

  6. Hi.
    Somehow i ended up on this post.
    it was both interesting and surprising to read that a man who is supposed to teach children acts in such a discriminate way.
    I agree with Abigail who said”Their so-called morality is a sham if they don’t possess such basic principles as love, acceptance, and peace.”
    Israel is surrounded by enemies and this man wants to go after a child how immature and hateful.
    He should not lower himself to the level of the Nazi’s.
    Hate begets hate.

  7. it is sad that this is happenign, and I dont understand why the parents insist on sending the kid to this school that doesnt want her. Whatever the reason is, right or wrong, why not just send to another school? There are so many, why davka the one that refuses to take you?

    I dont blame the kid, and the schools behavior is revolting, but some blame must be laid at the feet of the parents as well. Maybe it really is not the right school for this kid and they are simply insisting for stupid reasons.

  8. How appalling is this? I always felt Jewish people were so loving, caring and understanding. How would the Jewish community treat my mexican-jewish grandkids?

  9. Ms. Krieger asked: Why are Sephardim considered “undesirable” by the parents in this school?

    Part of it is a class issue. Usually sefardi are of lower socio-economic status. They also have different cultural and religious mores.
    A large part of the socio-economic differences was created by the way they were treated in the early 50’s, when Israel absorbed large numbers of Jews from Arab countries. They were not integrated properly, and most of the children were sent to secular schools despite their parents’ religiosity. All in all, though, it was a huge undertaking by Israel. The population doubled in about three years.

  10. Concerned parent says

    The whole Beit Shemesh community should be up in arms that there is such a principal in one of their schools. However, I doubt that will happen if the other 200+ girls stayed home. How sad.