The numerous articles on the Chinuch Atzmai Beis Yaakov HaTzafon School in Yerushalayim has elicited some strong emotions in support of and against the parents [and my articles] who feel they are being discriminated against, as well as strong statements regarding the services provided by Chinuch Atzmai. I wrote in the first article that efforts to obtain statements from the school’s principal, Mrs. Frieda Sokolovsky were in vain. Many calls were made and great effort was exerted to provide you, the reader, with the ‘other side’, in the name of responsible journalism and more importantly, to give a complete picture since the subject matter at hand plays such a vital role in the lives of chareidi Jewry.
Baruch Hashem YWN has obtained statements regarding the “other side”, in defense of Mrs. Sokolovsky. The information was verified and now, the ‘other side’ may be presented to provide the balance that was missing to date.
In addition, a letter addressing the Chinuch Atzmai issue has been received from Rav Mayer Horowitz, the Rav of Mosdos Boston Har Nof, and morei d’asra of Beis Medresh Givas Pinchas of the Bostoner Rebbe Shlita.
The information providing the position of Principal Fried Sokolovsky was obtained from a person who was present at the meetings with both Maran Rav Elyashiv Shlita and Maran Rav Shteinman Shlita and his information is first hand. He explained that Mrs. Sokolovsky is not the type to speak with the media.
Following are the highlights of our discussion:
Mrs. Sokolovsky is the principal of the school for decades, and as a result of her tireless efforts over the years, the school has the pristine reputation it enjoys and therefore, there are many not living in the neighborhood of Sanhedria Murchevet who seek to send their daughters to the school. There are other schools, but the Americans are correct when they remain insistent to send the girls to Beis Yaakov HaTzafon, because of its principal and what she has done in the span of her professional career.
There are “differences” between the children of native Israeli parents and those of new immigrants from the United States. Both I and the principal hold the American immigrants in the highest regard. We are well-aware that they have given up a higher standard of living and a life of relative comfort to come to Eretz Yisrael and live the life of an avreich.
That said, the Americans living in Sanhedria Murchevet have opted to live a life of their Israeli counterparts, not owning vehicles or other outwardly apparent items that make them standout and they are considered “the cream of the crop”. The others, from areas including but not limited to Ramat Eshkol and the surrounding area are commended for their mesirus nefesh, but they are not living and dressing the same as their Israeli counterparts, which led to tensions among some Israeli parents, whose children began asking for things out of their reach and hashkafa. Yes, all the girls wear uniforms in school, but the dress outside the school is another area which sets them vastly apart.
In addition, the parents of the American girls also signed a document to accept the current realities, namely the separate classes, and now, in the middle of the year, undoing such a reality is not advisable, considering it takes weeks and weeks of intensive work to set up the classes. At present, there are four parallel classes so such a move would impact many many girls.
In short, the separation of the Americans was in no way intended as a punishment, but as a respectable solution to the fact that the children have differences, have difficulty speaking with Israeli girls, and fit together better than attempted integration at this time. We want the girls in the school, and in time, they will acclimate to Eretz Yisrael. The school placed their best teacher in the American class, not wishing to compromise their education in anyway. One can easily understand when there are 10 girls in a classroom who naturally speak English, their native tongue; it does result in a pedagogic and social problem in the classroom. We spoke with rabbonim, experienced professionals and many experts before making a decision as to addressing the social & language gap.
The school has nothing against swimming lessons but when mothers come to take their girls out to take them swimming, or the girls explain to the local of Sanhedria Murchevet girls they learn swimming, it creates much stress in the homes of parents who are fighting to feed the family. It is not judgmental, but a fact of life, stressing over and over the Americans are to be commended for living the life style they have undertaken in Yerushalayim.
Rav Shteinman Shlita explained that more than a small handful of English speakers in a classroom at this stage is not acceptable for the reasons mentioned above in addition to other reasons.
The separation will continue for the girls until at least 4th or 5th grade. END OF INTERVIEW
(MY NOTE: The above statement regarding separation until 4th or 5th grade contradicts the promise made to me on the phone by Rabbi Henach Cohen of Chinuch Atzmai in the USA – see earlier YWN article HERE).
MY NOTE: The person with whom I spoke requested anonymity and felt compelled to come to the defense of the principal, who he explains has had many sleepless nights since the American children were removed from the school, explaining she truly cares for their neshamas. He also commended and exalted the efforts of Rav Berkowitz Shlita, who has been seeking to arbitrate between the Americans and the school.
PART II: Letter from Rabbi Meir Horowitz …
The Rav asked me to stress that his letter is intended to serve as a clarification, not a criticism in any way – seeking to explain why and how Chinuch Atzmai was formed, permitting readers to understand the organization is intended to serve the chareidi population in the various neighborhoods.
It should also be noted that Rav Mayer stresses that his statement is to be understood as a general policy statement, pertaining to all Chinuch Atzmai institutions, not just the Beis Yaakov HaTzafon.
Yeshiva World News
I believe that the general public in the United States has a basic misconception of what the Chinuch Atzmai School network is and why it was established by the great Gedolei Yisrael of the previous generation.
In Israel there are three recognized Jewish public school systems that of the secular chinuch mamlachti (government) that of the dati and mamlachti dati and Chinuch Atzmai.
It is not a private school system like Torah Umesorah in the United States, nor is it similar to the English network of schools which might be classified as communal — nor are the talmud torahs an integral part of Chinuch Atzmai, although they receive their funding via the government through Chinuch Atzmai.
Chinuch Atzmai is a public school system for every child in every neighborhood in Israel. Israeli children have the given right to choose to go to their local public school chareidi children use this right to choose to go to Chinuch Atzmai.
The principal of every school is its director but has no legal or halachic right or authority to turn away children without very good reason no child may be expelled in the middle of the year no child may be discriminated against.
Someone from outside the neighborhood who wishes to commute may be denied entrance by the school however someone who is in that school district must be accepted.
These are the facts:
What is the true picture – those Israelis who in the fifties did not want their children to sit in a classroom with children of non-observant parents chose to pay and send their children to tatim and tashbar.
But this only actually was implemented to chadorim for boys who are required by the Torah to study Torah day and night diligently. Girls schools have always been free and open (supposedly) the school may set rules , but these rules must apply across the board.
Recently discrimination against certain groups and the so called enlightenment of a new torah generation has brought about a phenomenon that the frumer religious only want to associate with the “most” religious and not with those that are not quite the elite of the “Torah World”.
The Beis Yisroel of Gur ZT”L made great sacrifices so that Chinuch Atzmai would exist perhaps the greatest was that he did not establish a cheider for Gur. His chassidim were urged to send their children specifically to Chinuch Atzmai so as to give Chinuch Atzmai the backbone of children required to firmly establish yiddishkeit in families that had lost everything dear to the in the Holocaust. This is why the only chassidic sect that speaks so very little Yiddish is Gur that too is now changing for other chassidic and litvish groups have received official Chinuch Atzmai designation for their “private” schools although they cater only to the in crowd. But this is not yet true of the elementary Beis Yaakov schools.
One of the greatest if not most important achievements of Shas is that they established yet a fourth public school system for Sephardic families that because of the upheavals of the fifties and sixties were detached from mainstream orthodox tradition.
Yes, their children needed Chinuch Atzmai but Chinuch Atzmai had graduated to a new level by 1970 and it was and is impossible to put non-shomer Shabbos children in Chinuch Atzmai schools that were to be found in mainly chareidi neighborhoods such as Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Haifa, Tzfas, Ashdod, etc.
B”H Lo Almon Yisroel Hashem in his kindness looks out for Jewish children and the Shas system has saved an entire generation.
Americans not only should support Chinuch Atzmai but should put their money where their mouth is and make sure that American children of “chareidi” couples from the United States and abroad receive the education they are entitled too by Torah, Halacha and secular state law.
If certain families want to have a caste system let them open and pay for their own schools just as the chassidim and litvish elite have, but this must not be done at the cost of the education of one single boy or girl who gave up life in America where in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. One has the single choice of sending their child together with all the other “frum” children and I can state witness that these school children are thriving and grow up to establish homes built on the foundation of Torah and Yirah second to none.
May I end by saying that I have encountered this problem too many time to count and have always asked these so-called selfless principals “how is it that these girls are not frum enough to sit with your daughters but are gladly accepted as your daughter in-laws.
May we come to our senses and think of others as much as we are concerned with ourselves.
Those who believe that having elitist schools aimed at certain populations is best for Klal Yisrael, I say to them, look at the schools that you and Klal Yisrael are proudest of; Mir and Lakewood, which both maintained open admissions, accepting everyone.
Rabbi Mayer Horowitz,
One of the proposed five Rabbonim to decide issues confronting Chinuch Atzmai in the spiritual realm.
END OF RAV MAYER’S LETTER:
I spoke with Rav Horowitz as well, and he expounded in-depth on the system, which he is extremely familiar with as a result of his many years of involvement. He stresses that Chinuch Atzmai is not a private school system and it was designed to provide a school system for all chareidi school children in a neighborhood, not for a specific segment. The concept of elitist schools is not acceptable and not the intension of the founders he explained.
He adds that he personally knows Rav Henach Cohen of Chinuch Atzmai America well, and he is truly moser nefesh for the system. Rav Horowitz stated he was extremely pleased to hear the segregation of the American students is coming to an end, as Rav Cohen explained [see previous YWN article] and he hopes whatever can be done to expedite ending this practice [of segregation] should be done as quickly as possible.
MY FINAL NOTE:
To my profound dismay, I have since learned that tens of American girls from Sanhedria Murchevet, the same neighborhood of Beis Yaakov HaTzafon, are not being accepted by the school. This contradicts what Rav Horowitz explained is Chinuch Atzmai’s mission, that a Beis Yaakov is not an elitist school and must accept the neighborhood’s chareidi children. I have also learned there are rabbis addressing the issue on their behalf as well, working to place children in schools to permit the children of American avreichim to enjoy a torah education as their Israeli counterparts do.
With this, I hope we have put the Beis Yaakov HaTzafon matter to rest from a YWN perspective, having presented all sides, making an effort to provide an honest and unbiased forum to all concerned – in the hope of advancing Torah chinuch for the next generation.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)