Defying ministry, rabbis tell school to put transgender boy in female-only class

Religious figures wade into case that has roiled religious elementary school in Givat Shmuel, claiming that Jewish law forbids cross-dressing

Illustrative: Children cross a street after leaving school in Beit El on May 1, 2019. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)
Illustrative: Children cross a street after leaving school in Beit El on May 1, 2019. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Over a dozen rabbis called Thursday for a religious school in central Israel to force an 8-year-old transgender student into a female-only classroom, defying the wishes of both the boy’s parents and the Education Ministry.

The child, who is in third grade at a national-religious school in the central city of Givat Shmuel, was born a female but today identifies as male. Religious schools separate classes by gender starting in fourth grade and both the school and Education Ministry have supported him being placed in class with other boys next year.

But in a letter addressed to the Education Ministry body that administers national religious schools, 17 rabbis, including several leading figures from the national-religious community, argued that  “fantasies do not change reality.”

“Jewish law doesn’t recognize artificial changes and forbids the behavior and dressing of a boy as a girl or a girl as a boy,” the letter claimed. “It is the role of a religious school to maintain [Jewish law] and act on it” by sending the child to a girls only class next year.

The letter referred to the student as a “daughter with the privilege to grow as a woman and a mother.”

The letter was signed by a number of prominent religious figures, including rabbis Dov Lior, a hardliner with ties to extremist settlers and Yaakov Ariel, the state-funded chief rabbi of neighboring Ramat Gan.

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel in the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, November 11, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Ariel had previously recommended that the student be allowed in the boys class after consulting with the Education Ministry, Channel 12 reported.

The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel — Aguda accused the rabbis of putting the child and others “in danger of mental harm that could lead to a loss of life, in total opposition to professional and medical authorities in Israel and around the world.”

“We implore all authorities: leave the boy alone,” the group said, according to Channel 12. “It is in your power to prevent the next tragedy.”

The affair has opened a rift among parents in Givat Shmuel, a national-religious bastion outside Tel Aviv. Parents of eight children at the school have unsuccessfully sought transfers elsewhere, according to the channel.

Roni Sassover, a lawyer for the parents requesting to move, accused the boy’s mother of having forced the child to reassign their gender.

“The [mother’s] exposure of a whole school to her imposition of a progressive agenda that goes against everything the school believes and educates according to is the problem,” she told Channel 12.

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