When the sixth graders at Noam-Haro’e religious school in Ramat Gan celebrate their Bat Mitzvah, the fathers won’t be there. The school is excluding the fathers because the Bat Mitzvah celebration will include girls singing and dancing. Since these 12 year old girls will now be adults in the Halachic sense the school says that fathers can’t watch them.
Father Ram Gal and other fathers wanted to see and celebrate with their daughters, so Ram Gal’s wife approached the school with a compromise that would allow fathers to be present during the parts of the ceremony that did not involve singing and dancing. The school would not budge, so this Sunday morning, Ram Gal’s daughter had her Bat Mitzvah without her father present.
Ram Gal, who himself grew up going to religious schools, says he does not remember schools being so segregated when he was a child. He admits that the neighborhood around the school has changed in the last several years, but he feels the segreation policy is the result of a few vocal parents. His feeling is that the school’s policy does not reflect the desires of the “silent sane majority” of parents.
Ram Gal’s feeling that the religious schools are changing is not his imagination. Today 65% of elementary religious schools have some form of segregation, some starting as early as first grade and some starting in third or fourth grade. Just ten years ago, in the early ’00s, only 25% were segregated
This change not only annoys some parents, it also costs money and sometimes violates Education Ministry policy. Education Ministry policy is that classes should not be split up until there are more than 40 students per school. Schools with gender segregated classrooms split up students regardless of whether or not they have reached the 40 students even though this goes against policy. Segregated elementary school classrooms cost the school system an additional 11m NIS according to HaAretz sources.
However proponents of the segregated school insist that they are want parents want. The principle of one school told HaAretz:
The vast majority today accepts the separation because being a part of the Torah education system is a label. This population is truly leading today … The national-religious education system is a mirror of religious Zionism as a whole.”
With all sides claiming the majority, it is impossible to know who is correct. However, that may be beside the point. Rabbi Avi Gisser, head of State Religious Education Council, says the Ramat Gan school was mistaken and acted against the State Religous Education Council policy. The council believes Bat Mitzva events are meant for the whole family and is opposed to excluding fathers as was done by the school.
Mistake or not,Ram Gal was not able to see his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
- Fathers banned from daughters’ Bat Mizva party , Ynet, 2012-04-01.
- Number of gender-segregated religious schools in Israel tripled during past decade , HaAretz, .2011-12-05.
Related articles in Jacob’s Bones: