Ma’avar (מ.ע.ב.ר – העמותה לגישור והכוונה בין מגזרית) has decided form a class-action suit agains the government for the money and time lost by haredim that were not taught core subjects when they were in school Haredim who leave the community can not go to college unless they first complete the bagrut and psychometric exams. Those raised on Yiddish often have to learn two languages from scratch: English and modern Hebrew. Further, since they are past the age of normal education they must pay for and complete this education while working. Usually the only jobs available are low paying jobs that don’t require a degree.
On its facebook page Ma’avar put out a call to ex-haredim to join the suit:
את המדינה תביעת נזיקין בגין הנזק שנגרם למי שלמד בחינוך חרדי ללא לימודי מקצועות בסיסיים, בניגוד למחויבותה לאכיפת חוק חינוך חובה לכלל האזרחים.
כל מי שלמד בחינוך חרדי ללא ליב“ה, (גם מי שחרדי בהווה) והזדקק להשלים בגרויות או פסיכומטרי או שעדיין צריך להשלים, איבד שנות עבודה, או שנגרם לו נזק כספי אחר, מוזמן
Friends, we are prepared to file a petition against the government on account of the damaged caused by a Haredi education that did not include core subjects on the grounds that the country abandoned its obligation to enforce the compulsory education law for all its citizens. Anyone who studied in a haredi school without core subjects and who has lost years of work or money because of having or had to complete the bagrut or psychometric exam is invited to receive a form [to join the suit].
According to Ynet, Udi, who put out the call says he has received dozens of replys from people interested in joining the suit. Shlomo Leker, who also does work for Rabbis for Human Rights, has agreed to take the case pro bonot. Work has already begun drafting the complaint.
There is a long line of comments on the face book page announcing the complaint. One commenter, still inside the Haredi community said:
Even if this is something that won’t get us any money, it could raise awareness to the real problem. It’s unthinkable that haredi politicians tell the State not to intervene, while we pay the price. I am inside the haredi public and I am the first to stand up and say that we have suffered unprecedented injustice. If my parents had an acceptable haredi option in their neighborhood for math and English studies, they would have been happy to give it to me, but they didn’t. The State is clearly responsible here. I am 26 years old, I have two daughters and a mortgage to pay, I work hard, and at the end of the day I study fractions like a sixth grader and feel inferior. (Translation by Ynet)
According to a law passed in 2003, all state funded schools are required to teach core subjects: math, english, history, civics, language arts (grammar, composition, and literature) and religion. The language arts and religion requirements vary by social group: Arab schools may teach Arabic rather than Hebrew for the language arts requirement. Jewish schools study Bible for the religion requirement. Christians, Muslims, and Druze may teach their respective religions instead of Bible.
However, the law has never been fully implemented in the Haredi community and most Haredi children have grown up without core secular studies needed complete the examinations for college. In a recent Education Ministry survey released December, 2011. Only 30% taught civics, 39% taught Engish, 41% taught math and Hebrew literature, and 43% taught grammer.
From the very beginning the law was selectively enforced. Haredi schools continued to receive funding even though they failed to teach core subjects. When many teachers were fired or had hours reduced due to budget cuts, the Secondary Schools Teachers’ Association sued the Ministry of Education because it was giving $40 million to schools that did not teach core subjects. Under the 2003 law they were not supposed to receive funding.
They won the supreme court case, but this only resulted in a new round of laws. In July, 2008 the Knesset passed a law entitling ultra-Orthodox schools to 60% funding even if they didn’t teach core curriculum. In July, 2009, a second law was passed that forced local authorities to make up the difference for “unofficial registered schools” . This was code for ultra-orthodox schools as most, if not all, of the schools on this list were Shas and United Toarah Judaism (UTJ) schools.
The laws only enforcement mechanism was the power of the purse and these two laws removed or severely reduced the ability to financial pressure.
Not surprisingly this triggered another round of law suits. Professors Amnon Rubinstein and Uriel Reichman, as well as former commander of the IDF Education Corps, Maj. Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern sued the government to overturn the 2008 law allowing state funds to pay for schools that do not teach core curriculum. They have argued that a child cannot chose the education he recieves and therefore the state has to step in to protect them.
We are talking about children who are not being taught even minimal skills. There is a minimal education that every child must receive, without which he cannot develop his abilities or function in the modern world.” (Source: Israel HaYom)
The Israeli Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not there are grounds to even hear the case.
There have also been legislative attempts to roll back funding of schools that refuse to teach core subjects. In December, 2011, MKs from four parties tried to get the Ministerial Committee to approve a law that would require Haredi schools to teach core subjects. The law was proposed by Einat Wilf (Independence) , Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Meir Sheetrit (Kadima), Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi). It failed to get out of committee.
This lastest law suit by former students in Haredi schools adds a new twist to the legal battle. One of the strongest objections to the Reichman et al suit is that it is based on paternalism, one social group claiming to know what is best for another. Attorney Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha’arei Mishpat College is representing a group of Yeshiva students who are against the Reichman et al. Supreme Court petition. In December, 2010, HaCohen told the Forward that:
Haredim who do not establish careers are acting by “choice,” and that moves to change the community’s economic situation by placing demands on schools are “paternalistic.”
However, clearly, if there are students who feel that they were not given a choice, the paternalism argument falls. One of the core principles of democracy is that it must protect the rights of minorities. This includes minories within minorities, such as the students who eventually grow up and decide to live outside of the Haredi community.