There have been numerous cases of Ashkenazi Haredi schools in Israel discriminating against Sephardim. I am personally very disturbed by what I consider to be a great chillul Hashem, and I find such ethnic discrimination abhorrent.

Although there is nothing that could convince me that anti-Sephardic discrimination is right, I am curious about the reasons behind such prejudice. Are the school heads who do not want to admit Sephardim acting out of purely cultural motivations, or do they have any religious justifications for their actions?

(It goes without saying that most rabbonim condemn such discrimination, including most Ashkenazi Haredi rabbonim. I am asking specifically about cases in which such discrimination occurs)

  • Any help with tagging would be appreciated. – user5540 Dec 15 '14 at 0:37
  • Your title implies general discrimination against Sephardim, but the body of your question asks about instances of segregating Ashkenazi and Sephardi schoolgirls or artificially maintaining a substantial Ashkenazi majority in Ashkenazi run schools. Are you asking only for the rationale that the schools give for the latter? – Fred Dec 15 '14 at 3:29
  • I'm interested in the schools (as that's what's captured the headlines), but also more generally in broader discrimination. The thing I'm really aiming for is a religious reason Askhenazim would want to separate themselves, in schools or society, from Sephardim. – user5540 Dec 15 '14 at 3:49
  • Simple racism?? – Scimonster Dec 15 '14 at 7:43
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    I am basing this solely on personal experience and so not writing it as a answer, but I believe that it comes from a negative view of the Middle-Eastern/Arab cultural standards that are prevalent among Sephardim, which from the perspective of the more European influenced culture of the Ashkenazim is viewed as crass and uncouth. – Jewels Dec 15 '14 at 12:31

Rabbi Berel Wein has suggested that long ago, there were a certain amount of anti-Sephardic animosity related to the fact that when during the Crusades, the Ashkenazic Jews forced to choose between the cross and the sword went to their deaths; whereas during the Spanish Inquisition, many Spanish (i.e. Sephardic) Jews chose to stay alive and outwardly profess Christianity.

In the cases of schools today, sometimes the school feels extremely rigidly that it should have the text that its students use for prayer, for instance; and it feels that if this is diluted by students who use different texts, then other policies, or the esprit de corps, could be weakened too. (If the Syrian girl can follow her rabbis and pray differently, then what about the girl whose rabbis allow her to wear pants to school?)

Most strongly, though, it's been observed that in Israeli society today, Ashkenazic Jews tend to follow a fairly sharp divide between "Orthodox" and "non-Orthodox." For many Sephardic Jews, there's more of a continuum, and you're more likely to see those who affiliate Orthodox while less observant. I don't recall the article off-hand, but it was pointed out a non-observant Jew in Israel would never dream of visiting his Ashkenazic Haredi relatives unless he was wearing a kippa during the visit; if visiting Sephardic relatives, he could walk in without a kippa. Thus many Sephardic children are more used to the idea of non-observant Jews, and being somewhat okay with them. If you have an educational model that's all-or-nothing that stresses, and thrives on, the "religious/irreligious" divide, then this would be problematic.

Mind you, I'm not defending any of these practices or attitudes! Just helping to explain some ideas behind them.

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    I strongly question that the reason in the first paragraph ever plays a significant role, and the reason in the third paragraph is probably also minor or absent in most cases. The main reason why certain schools discriminate against Sephardi students is related to what you mentioned in your second paragraph; they want to protect the integrity of Ashkenazic Chareidi customs, nuscha'os, and practices against influences from the customs of other communities. – Fred Dec 15 '14 at 3:21

I can't attest to the truth of this, but I once heard R' Orlofsky say that some Ashkenazi Yeshivos do not accept Sefardim (or limit their acceptance) for the sake of the Sefardim - they feel that the Sefardim should respect their own tradition, and should attend Yeshivos that encourage and support that tradition.

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