Rabbis from the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish sect, Satmar, have issued a religious order banning all females from attending institutions of higher education, The Independent reported on Tuesday.
The Satmars are based in New York City and run segregated primary and secondary boys and girls schools there.
“It has lately become the new trend that girls and married women are pursuing degrees in special education. . . . And so we’d like to let their parents know that it is against the Torah,” the rabbis said in a decree written in Yiddish.
“No girls attending our school will be allowed to study and get a degree,” the statement continued. “It is dangerous. Girls who do not abide will be forced to leave our school. . . . We have to keep our schools safe and we can’t allow any secular influences in our holy environment. It is against the base upon which our Mosed was built.”
Satmars are part of the Hasidic movement, a Jewish religious awakening that originated in Western Ukraine in the 1700s. The sect adopted social customs from before the European Enlightenment period that are still adhered to, including traditional dress of black hats and coats over white, long-sleeved collared shirts for men and conservative attire for women, who must cover their hair, elbows and knees if married.
Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, condemned the move saying it will only hurt the chances for prosperity of Satmar women.
“The Satmar community chooses to live in an isolationist enclave,” said Dr. Weiss-Greenberg. “They believe that the secular elements of the world would tarnish the live and beliefs of those who consider themselves to be religious.”
“Ultimately, the results [of this decree] are devastating,” she continued. “When one does not have access to education, career opportunities are out of reach. It forces one to stay within the community as everyone’s personal lives are tied up with their professional lives as well.”
As of 2006, there were approximately 250,000 Hasidic Jews in the United States, 95 percent of which lived in the New York metropolitan area.
More current figures show that there are about 30,000 Hasidics in the United Kingdom, where some London sects have prohibited women from driving a car.
[The Independent] [RT News] [Photo courtesy Vos Iz Neias]