Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Religious schools don't want Ethiopian Children


The daily reality in our country is that children of immigrants from Ethiopia don’t face an easy task finding a school. There are plenty of schools which do not accept them for several reasons: Schools in wealthy areas (let’s look at northern Tel Aviv as well as Ramat Aviv) neither want nor have Ethiopian kids studying at their institutions. The wealthy simply don’t want them because the poor Ethiopians don’t fit. On the other hand, secular Ramat Aviv is gossiping about religious Ashkenazi schools not willing to accept either Ethiopian or Sephardi children. Does Ramat Aviv accept them into its own schools ? No ! 

It has been in the Israeli news for quite a while and it is always repeating itself. After the summer vacation, Ethiopian children hardly find schools accepting them. This is very sad but, many times, there are good reasons. 

In Petach Tikwah

Photo: Miriam Woelke
The Municipality of Petach Tikwah (near Tel Aviv) sent a bunch of Ethiopian girls to the Chabad school OR CHAYA, as other schools weren’t willing to accept those them. Chabad, however, refused taking those girls too, and Israel’s secular Jewry is screaming out. OR CHAYA simply said that there is no real proof that those girls are Jewish. 

True, as Ethiopian immigrants are accepted as Jews by Sephardi Jewry only. This decision was made years ago by former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Ashkenazi part of the Chief Rabbinate (Rabbanut) stipulates that only those Ethiopian immigrants are accepted as halachically Jewish who undergo an Orthodox conversion course ! Otherwise they are not accepted as Jews according to Ashkenazi standards. Nevertheless, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said that only those Ethiopians are recognized as Jewish when they are able to provide documents. This alone may be very difficult for people from African countries. Fact is that many Ethiopian immigrants are NOT Jewish. Many are married to Gentile women and thus, the children are not Jewish anymore. 

I don’t understand why the Petach Tikwah Municipality is sending Ethiopian kids to the Ashkenazi Chabad ? Doesn’t anyone think and imagine in advance what will happen ? Why not sending them to Sephardi SHASS schools ? 

See also YNET !


  1. There are many reasons--like the fact that many follow xtian ways and openly proselytize, and others are completely secular, like the large community in my area. Why try to put them in a religious school that is designed specifically for observant kids? Trust the news to always vilify the religious.

  2. B"H

    There actually are religious Ethiopian kids looking for schools but rather the national religious way.

  3. Not sure if my other comment appeared.

    But as I have mentioned. This issue has nothing to do with race OR colour.

    Many Poskim have stated that as these Ethiopians are not Halachically Jewish they are not accepted into these schools.

    What I don't understand is why they would want to attend this school if they don't follow that minhagim.

  4. B"H

    As far as I understood, the municipality had sent those girls to Chabad. Maybe because Chabad has a general reputation as "If nothing works out, go to Chabad. They will definitely take you !"

    On the other hand, we had this last year with the Slonim girl's school in the settlement of Emmanuel. Where Sephardi Beit Yaakov girls insisted on going to an Ashkenazi school. A kind of ridiculous, as all customs are different. Adding to that, the girl's schhol belonged to Chassidut Slonim and why should anyone who is not Slonim insist on going to their school ? I don't think that the Slonimer would accept me in their school and I am Ashkenazi.

    Also last year, I spoke to a Sephardi colleague at work and asked him why many many Sepharadim always insist on participating in something Ashekenazi. The school systems are both accepted and today, the Ashkenazi system doesn't have to be so much better. But why is it ?

    The colleague laughed and said that Sepharadim see Ashkenazim as successful people. Not all but many. And thus, the Sepharadim also want to be successful and according to them, this can only be achieved by going to Ashkenazi schools.

    In a religious sense, the girls hope for a better Shidduch, for example. For a better profession.

    It does make a difference when you say you studied with Chabad. This sounds better than admitting you studied somewhere in the dumbs with mainly other Ethiopian children. Then Israelis think: "Ah, okay, these kids are uneducated", as this is the Ethiopian reputation.