Hundreds of Bnei Akiva movement members’ parents sent the organization’s Secretary-General Benny Nechtailer a letter protesting the local annual singing contest expected to separate between boys and girls completely this year.
“We received an invitation to the competition and could not believe our eyes,” the parents wrote. According to them, they only heard that they performance was separated between boys and girls a few days ago.
They had no idea that the girls’ show would take place first and be women-only and that the boys’ performance which would be conducted right after would allow all audiences.
As former members of the movement, the parents said, “None of us remember Bnei Akiva as a movement segregating between boys and girls like an ultra-Orthodox movement.”
The parents feel that the youth group is an educational, social and integrated environment that completes the formal education their children receive at school. They believe that, “integrated educational activities assist in the education of the students regarding modesty and contribute to their ability to stand before religious challenges during this day and age.”
Bnei Akiva’s Givat Shmuel branch is completely separated by gender and according to the parents, this takes away from the movement’s activities.
In the letter, the parents revealed that oftentimes their children arrive at the branch in order to meet their friends and not to participate in activities. This happens because the teens are unwilling to give up on inter-gender communication.
Furthermore, the parents warned that “they do not go to activities, and instead congregate outside and from here it is a downhill path to idleness and violence may be next.” They also feel that “over-separating” has heavy prices and educational consequences especially in the realm of modesty.
“We are asking to reassess the issue of separate activities at the branch and request that the days of glory are restored.” Furthermore, “we want our children to be educated in our movement, a religious, healthy and fun youth group.
“Parents who are interested in a separatist movement are more than welcome to send their children to Ezra, the ultra-Orthodox youth movement instead. To begin with, we would like to request a normal, mixed singing contest where everyone will listen to each other,” said the parents.
As a result of the petition, the Torah and Labor Faithful movement called upon the Bnei Akiva organization to reassess the educational and religious consequences of separation.
“According to the Halacha (Jewish Law), a mixed girls and boys singing contest can take place because the rule stating that a voice of a singing woman equals lewdness because it may distract one from prayer, does not call for completely divided performances.”
Bnei Akiva responded by saying “The Givat Shmuel branch has significantly expanded over the past few years and today it is one of the biggest chapters in the country.
“This expansion yielded divisions on certain subjects including the issues of separation at some of the branches’ activities. The Bnei Akiva movement’s leadership tries giving each of its chapters freedom of choice while emphasizing that the activities will be conducted according to the needs of the place and its residents, as much as possible.
“In addition, in light of the growing gaps, the movement has been working for quite some time on establishing an additional location addressing the array of opinions of the national-religious population in the area,” they said.