Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar has issued a letter asking heads of religious schools not to discriminate children of Ethiopian descent, who wish to apply to their respective educational institutions.
In his statement, Rabbi Amar noted that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas' spiritual leader, approved his plea. The letter was also posted on Shas' website.
Rabbi Amar's letter states that "our sages of blessed memory have taught us that the land of Israel is redeemed in agony, it is true that the difficulties of aliyah are immense.
"One of the more immense difficulties is the feeling of discrimination, especially in children's educational institutes," he emphasized. "Apart from the grief it causes in the parents, it affects the children's soul, which can cause bitterness."
Rabbi Amar's appeal came after he was presented with several examples of children being discriminated against by schools, based on the color of their skin.
In the spirit of the upcoming Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Amar has called the heads of the various religious schools to "search inside their souls".
"Sadly, we hear about more and more cases in which schools reject children based on the color of thier skin, though citing a different reasons... A thousand excuses, no matter how well written or said, cannot change the simple truth, and will not helo anyone during judgment day," said Amar.
Rabbi Amar addressing Ethiopian dignitaries (Photo: Yitzhak Elharar)
"If they are weak, we must make them stronger through their studies. Please, do not sin against the child, because from each child a new world will rise. Our sages said 'care for sons of the poor who the will read the Torah, for you will not know who will succeed.'"
Phenomenon of 'blatant racism'
MK Mazor Bahaina (Shas), said he hoped Rabbi Amar's letter will end the what he called "blatant racism" and the shameful phenomenon of discriminating children based on their background.
Bahaina stressed that his comments were not directed at the heads of Ashkenazi institutes, since "we have the same difficulties with them, as everyone else... I don't expect Ethiopians to be treated better than those of Moroccan decent," he added, noting that his appeal is more directed at the Sephardi institutes, which are the subject of the majority of the complaints he receives.
The racism from Sephardi institues, according to Bahaina is the most infuriating. "Some places won't accept you even if you did go through all the approved conversion channels. We are talking about the same people who were themselves mistreated and know something about discrimination."
Bahaina hopes that Rabbi Amar's letter, which is co signed by Shas' spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, will "bring around the soldiers to follow their orders and not rebel against them," referring to educational institutes who follow instruction from their spiritual leaders.
Bahaina hopes that the letter will end the discrimination, though he says that he will "continue to fight the phenomenon if it persists".
Bahaina quoted the law, which states that "any educational institute that discriminates a person based on their background or skin color can be immediately closed down.
"We have no other Torah. We grew up on it for thousands of years, and a third of the Ethiopian community goes to religious schools. We will do all that we can, within the law, to make the institutions realize that it's a mistake which will cost them dearly".