Well, if the Emanuel school problem is held as an example, the answer is "Yes, especially if they want to!".
For the past several weeks, newspapers have been crying out against segregation of Ashkenazi and Sephardi students in the Emanuel community. They have cried out against prejudice and a class struggle between Ashkenazi and Sephardi. (Sounds good. Makes good reading - Ashkenazi are prejudice against Sephardim - a spector that has haunted Israel since its modern-day inception.)
Is there really a racial problem in Emanuel, or are the Israeli media and other institutions trying to promote the idea of inter-Hareidi prejudice and racism? Are they trying to create a new reason to bash Hareidim? Are they fanning the flames of sinat chinam (baseless hatred of Jews for one another) just as we are approaching 17 Tammuz (when Jerusalem's walls were breached) and 9 Av (when the Temple was destroyed because of this baseless hatred)?
Thursday's http://www.cnn.com/ reported, "Some 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews protested Thursday an Israeli Supreme Court decision banning segregation based on ethnic background in a girls' religious elementary school. Girls of Sephardic origin were being denied permission to share classrooms with the largely Ashkenazi school and were forced into segregated classes."
The media in Israel and the world are making the Emanuel problem into a war of the races. That sounds good, and of course, those horrible Ashkenazi hareidim are to blame for the latest round of racism in the world...NOT.
The Emanuel School crisis, which culminated today in a march by 100,000 men (those present said it was more like 200,000) to the Russian Compound to escort Emanuel parents to prison, is not about race. In other neighborhoods or nations, perhaps that's what the crisis would be, so each reporter puts the story into his own reality - "This must be racism."
But if anyone really read the reports on Emanuel or watched the video clips, this Emanuel education predicament is not about race at all. Some of the parents protesting on the side of the Slonimer Hassidim of Emanuel were Sephardi themselves. They admitted, "This has nothing to do with race. This is about halacha (Jewish law)."
Jpost report that "35 fathers of students at the Emmanuel Beit Ya’acov girls school began two-week jail terms for contempt of court over discriminatory practices at the school, and their hassidic community hailed them as heroes for 'choosing Torah' over the secular court system."
Jpost added, "The parents have remained firm in their insistence that the separation was not racially based, but was a function of halachic stringency. A small number of Sephardi girls had been allowed to study with the Ashkenazi girls, and three Sephardi fathers were among those jailed."
It was also important to note there was absolutely no violence, just dignity in the ranks of the hundreds of thousands. "Throughout the day’s events, not a single act of violence was reported by police. Magen David Adom and Hatzalah units positioned along the march’s route reported scattered incidents of heatstroke and other medical calls, mostly among the crowd’s elderly participants."
Every school is run on a certain takanon (regulations or mission statement). The original mission statement of the Slonimer school in Emanuel explained that the school wished the strictest interpretation of different opinions in religion and dress. Parents who wanted to send their children to the Slonim school had to have a desire to adhere to these tenets before their children walked through the school's doors. And when their children were learning in the school, they were obliged to keep to the mission statement. Both Sephardi and Ashkenazi families agreed to do this.
Unfortunately for the school population, families came into the school, agreeing to adhere to the takanun and then later, demanding that the school change its policies to bend toward the parents. This would be totally against the beliefs of the parents and the rulings of the school.
The High Court and the local and world media would love to make this predicament into a race issue, but it's not.
Dancing to Prison
More than 100,000 men danced and marched through the streets of Jerusalem with the fathers of the pro-Slonim students. The fathers were on their way to jail, according to a ruling of the High Court of Justice. So what could they possibly have been dancing about?
Well, if you listen to their words, they tell you that they are not going to jail because of prejudice, but because they are not willing to compromise their Torah values. Their rabbis have counseled them on the proper education of their children, and they wish to follow the advice of their rabbis, not the Israeli High Court.
The crowd wanted to send a message to the High Court of Justice and to the Israeli public. Simply:"Torah believing Jews follow the words of their rabbis, not the words of the court."
That, my friends, is what this entire dispute in Emanuel represents - who's the boss in the Hareidi Community (or in any Jewish-faith-filled home)? The Rabbis or the secular courts.
This same debate goes back thousands of years to ancient Israel. The rabbis? Representing the word of G-d and the Torah. Or the courts? Representing the new world, modern thinking.
The Hareidim are sincere enough and devoted enough to Torah to make their choice clear, "The Rabbis!!"
Jpost reported a truth that we should all contemplate before we let sinat chinam (baseless hatred) spread any further. "Israel Prize laureate and Migdal Ha’emek Rabbi Itzhak David Grossman, who accompanied Porush, said that Israel had more external enemies than it needed, and 'we don’t have to destroy ourselves from within.'"