Chabad-Lubavitch hasidim regularly visit secular elementary schools and hand out fliers on the importance of observing Shabbat. A parent fought against this and the Education Ministry told her in response that no promotional literature should be distributed without its approval. But that is reportedly the Education Ministry's standard response to parental complaints about Chabad-Lubavitch activity in schools, and there is no evidence the Education Ministry has done anything to stop these visits from recurring.
Zionist Orthodox And Chabad Missionary Proselytizing In Israeli State Secular Public Schools Prompts Call To Ban The Proselytizing, Launch New Truly Secular Public Schools
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A group of about 30 Israeli educators, many of whom want to create an independent secular school system, met last week for the first time in response to a series of steps taken by Israel’s Zionist Orthodox-controlled Education Ministry that has forced Orthodox religion into Israel’s secular public school system, Ha’aretz reported.
Academics, teachers and principals attended the inaugural meeting, which was organized by the Secular Forum. Most attendees reportedly themselves have children in secular public schools and were prompted to attend by Israel’s new high school civics textbook, which promotes religious values over democracy, and by proselytizing outreach in the secular schools by Zionist Orthodox groups and Chabad under the auspices of the Education Ministry’s Torah Culture Department.
The meeting preceded news that the award-winning Israeli young adult novel Borderlife had been banned by the Education Ministry over miscegenation fears. The Education Ministry’s professionals wanted to include the novel in its literature curriculum but was overruled by higher-ups for religious and political reasons, sparking widespread outrage.
A mother who attended the meeting reportedly complained about an Orthodox group’s workshop in a secular school on the chain of generations, which she said focused almost exclusively on Biblical figures.
“The bottom line [of the teaching] was that God commanded us to have this land,” she said.
She also noted that Chabad-Lubavitch hasidim regularly visit secular elementary schools and hand out fliers on the importance of observing Shabbat. She fought against this and the Education Ministry told her in response that no promotional literature should be distributed without its approval. But that is reportedly its standard response to parental complaints about Chabad-Lubavitch activity in schools, and there is no evidence the Education Ministry has done anything to stop these visits from recurring.
“The Torah culture department has no place in the secular school system. There are many pluralistic organizations, but they get almost no funding from the Education Ministry,” another parent at the meeting complained.
According to Ha’aretz, about 95% of the Education Ministry’s funding for organizations that work to “deepen Jewish identity” in secular state public schools is given to Orthodox organizations affiliated with Zionist Orthodoxy.
The new parents and activists group wants to bar these and other Orthodox organizations from secular state public schools.
It also wants to have those secular public schools:
• Educate students in support of democracy, liberalism and humanism from an early age.
• Expand arts, humanities, and sciences curriculum.
• Be universalistic not parochial.
• Establish a challenging critical secular educational culture.
The new group hopes to recruit thousands of supporters, mainly through the use of social media.
The state secular school system “was established with the view that the secular public was the hegemonic majority, so it had no need of a minority’s protections. But this situation has changed, and the secular public, while very diverse in its views, has no framework suited to its values. [This change] didn’t begin yesterday, [but] more people now understand that a new system, more suitable to their values, is needed,” Ram Fruman, the chairman of the Secular Forum, reportedly said.
Fruman thinks an independent secular school system should be established, but the new group has not decided if that is something it wants to back. It could decide to remain within the existing purportedly secular system but with added protections to prevent religious abuse by groups like Chabad and by Zionist Orthodox apparatchiks.
Fruman believes a new secular independent school system is the best option because “as a minority” he doesn’t trust the existing system to protect freedom from religion. He also said he doesn’t want “to impose what we’re seeking on other groups in the secular public schools that might not agree with us completely.” He also noted that other groups, like for example the Zionist Orthodox, have their own state school systems. Now it’s time for secular humanists to have one, as well.
A person (who wished to remain anonymous) familiar with the new group and Fruman’s ideas told Ha’aretz he is not convinced Fruman is right.
“I don’t want my children to learn in a closed framework where they’ll meet only people like themselves. Ultimately, a secular ghetto is still a ghetto. We criticize the monolithic nature of ultra-Orthodox or religious Zionist education, but I fear we’ll fall into the same trap.…Therefore, the preferred solution isn’t separating from the state school system but [instead] instilling pluralism in it,” he said.