Ashkenazi Against Sephardi Racism Lives
18, 2010) Some 100,000 Hasidic haredi (ultra-Orthodox)
Ashkenazi Jews staged a massive rally to show support
to fellow parents within their communities that were sent
to prison to serve two-week sentences. The parents were
found to be in contempt of court for failing to
send their children to school alongside Sephardi children.
haredim were found guilty
by the Israeli High Court of Justice of racism.
Evidence of their crime can easily be seen by the fact
that schools were constructed with separate entrances
and separate classrooms for Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews.
The Ashkenazi parents say they need to keep the classrooms
segregated because the families of the Sephardi girls
"aren't religious enough." The arguments and
actions of the haredi communities are similar to those
which took place in the early and mid 20th century United
States under the Jim Crow laws which separated
blacks and whites.
of thousands of Hasidic haredi
Ashkenazi Jews protest charge of racism (Photo: AFP)
the recent decision by the Israeli court to put a halt
to the discrimination, the haredi Ashkenazi students'
parents decided to boycott the court order by keeping
their children home. Education Ministry inspectors soon
discovered that physical separators had been removed,
but that the Sephardic girls were the only ones in class.
Hassidic haredi Jews initially arrived in Palestine from
Europe and Russia in the late 19th century. Ever since
their arrival, they have been criticized by their fellow
Jews for always being on the margin and not working together
toward intra-religious harmony. The Holy Land was represented
by one rabbi for hundreds of years, which was always a
Sephardi rabbi. The last single-representative
was Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir (1856-1939), a Spanish Sephardi
rabbi. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) was brought
in from Europe to be the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, thus the
co-chief rabbi of British Mandate Palestine. Upon taking
office, Rabbi Kook asked the Hasidic haredi Ashkenazim
to work together with him, after all, he too was a Hasidic
Ashkenazi Jew!--but they outright rejected his notion
of being part of a central chief rabbinate nor working
in any fashion with the secular Zionist leadership. The
haredim of yesteryear marginalized themselves; they blindly
followed their leaders known as "rebbes," as
they continue to do today. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, expressed
his deep anger about this when he wrote a scathing commentary
of the haredim:
enslavement of the[ir] intelligence and its stupefaction
result from certain influences, and the more 'holy'
the influences, the greater the damage done, amounting
to the corruption of prophecy in God's name, actions
of wickedness and impurity, idol worship and abomination.
Thus when the attempt to stupefy the intelligence is
presented in the name of faith, of fear of Heaven, or
diligence in Torah and fulfilling of mitzvot, it becomes
a terrible lie and a filthy impurity. Then the holy
ones of the Most High, God's pure servants, must go
forth to redeem the world and Israel, the Torah, and
all that is holy to the Lord from these destroyers.(1)
contemporary battle in Israel stems from the fact haredi
Ashkenazi Jews demand that the Sephardi children (in this
case we are speaking of children of Jews from Muslim countries)
pray in the Ashkenazi manner both at home and at school.
Further, the haredim have demanded the Sephardi children
dress like they do-in fashion which originated from Central
and Eastern Europe, that of the black clergical uniform
consisting of a long coat and black hat.
it gets even worse than that. The haredim in Israel have
established separation fences in the school's courtyards,
and setup different recess times for Ashkenazi and Sephardi
students to keep them apart. The Ashkenazi school placed
signs on the walls indicating physical separation. All
of this discrimination and racism smacks of the 1970's
when it was not uncommon for Sephardi Jews to be called
parents of the haredim insist that they were acting out
of religious conviction and rejected charges of racism.
However, constructing a wall to separate children whose
grandparents come from Morocco, Egypt or Iraq versus whose
grandparents come from Poland, Ukraine or Russia, needs
no explanation. The opinions and outlook of the Hasidic
haredim in Israel are no different today than they were
was in the past. We can now see why Rabbi Kook, the first
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, issued stern criticism of them
in the early 20th century. He said the haredim were:
deceivers, weak of spirit and small of mind, whose own
intellectual light has been obstructed, their feelings
dulled, and their imagination coarsened, who purposefully
and thoroughly trample down the reality before them,
their own faith enrooted in mere fables of faith...
And thus souls stumble and fall, and human beings live
the lives of beasts, degradation without knowledge or
understanding, without human honor, that most basic
element in recognizing the honour of Heaven that fills
the world, that gives life to all, and animates spirit
relates to their bitter and unjust hatred of the Sephardim.
This revulsion by this group of haredi Ashkenazim against
Jews that were displaced from Muslim countries goes along
with their desire to secure a presumed Ashkenazi purity
of religion. Yet, this is ironic, as it's the Sephardi
Jews that made up the indigenous Jewish population in
the Holy Land. And while these Hassidic haredim follow
a version of the Jewish religion that was founded in 18th
century Ukraine by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, under halakha
(binding Jewish religious law) it is the customs and traditions
of the Sephardi Jews which are the customs of the Land
of Israel and legally should be the dominant way of life
racism and segregation being experienced upon Sephardi
children in Israel today is shameful, but it is nothing
new. This not a simple issue of minhag (tradition)
or different mesorah (tradition), this is about
the blatant hatred of the Sephardi Jews by the Hasidic
haredi Ashkenazim, a very well known situation that exists
in parts of Israel today. Jews should be moving forward
not backward. The fear, ignorance and emotional response
being elicited by the Hasidic haredi Ashkenazim is a disgrace
to all Jews on the highest level. It's a true crying shame.
article: Why do Sephardic
Children go to Ashkenazi Schools in Israel?
Source of statement by Kook: Rav Kook Manuscript,
Collection D, 18b. Published in Orot ha-Emunah, pp.67-68.
And in Ish-Shalom.
Rav Avraham Itzhak HaCohen Kook: Between Rationalism
and Mysticism. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press: