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Ex-haredim to sue state for depriving them of basic education

Former members of the haredi community who have abandoned their way of life, mostly becoming secular, have announced that they will be submitting a lawsuit against the state because they received no basic education. Their organization, Leaving for Change (LFC), is seeking to sue the state for what it calls its failure to implement the law for compulsory education. The NGO has published an online form, disseminated through social media, asking people to submit details of the education they received in the haredi school system, as well as any subsequent education outside of the haredi system, and how much these studies cost them.

The large majority of haredi boys in Israel are taught extremely basic math and English in elementary school, and virtually none at all in high school. Other core curriculum subjects, such as sciences and literature, are totally ignored. More than 90 percent do not obtain a high school diploma. In recent years, however, there have been small but consistent numbers of people who have left the haredi community and sought to integrate into general society and the work force. Their lack of a basic education has severely hindered these aspirations.

Moshe Shenfeld, chairman of LFC, said that more than 300 people had signed up in just two weeks, with more expected to do so before the NGO submits its suit to the Jerusalem District Court in July. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Shenfeld said that many who leave the haredi community have to enroll in supplementary courses to study for and obtain a diploma. In addition, since many such people are ostracized by the haredi community, and frequently even by their families, they have nowhere to live while studying.

According to Shenfeld, these studies typically take two years and sometimes three, and when combined with accommodation and other expenses, they can cost as much as NIS 100,000. Approximately 50 people will ultimately be represented in the lawsuit, although its purpose is not specifically to obtain money. “What we want to do is force the state to ensure that there is available financial assistance for people who have left the haredi community and need to bridge the gaps in their education that resulted from the state failing to ensure they received the requisite tools for employment and higher education at the usual primary and secondary school age,” Shenfeld said.

There are several remedial- study frameworks available for those who remain in the haredi community yet wish to integrate into the work force. LFC has found, however, that a number of these frameworks have not made funds available to those who have left the community. After LFC was founded two years ago and began advocating and lobbying, funds in some of these frameworks were made available to ex-haredim.

The organization wants to formalize a designated, funded framework for such people to ensure that all possible avenues for obtaining a basic education are open to them, and that it will not be possible to block these funds in the future.

“In every modern country, the state provides a fully funded education system because it knows that this is in its interests, since without it a situation will be created in which people reaching the age of 18 will not have the tools to be working citizens. Not only will the citizens themselves be harmed, but so, too, is the state, because it now has a person who has become a burden instead of a creative citizen,” Shenfeld told the Post. “Someone who went through the haredi education system never received the benefit of a practical education,” he explained, “and what we are saying is that in one, two or three years at the most, with the financial assistance of the state, the gaps in the education of such people can be bridged.”

Jeremy Sharon