Hasidic Sect Issues Decree Against Higher Education for Women

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

According to a decree issued by Satmar rabbis in New York, where the sect is based, university education for women is “dangerous” and is now banned by the ultra-Orthodox Jews who are looking to prevent “secular influences” in “the holy environment.”

The decree states that girls and married women are beginning to work toward earning degrees in special education.  While some attend traditional classes, others take them online.  The decree goes on to say that they are informing parents that doing so is against the Torah.

While the decree was issued in New York, it is meant to apply to all the sect’s followers around the world.

“We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school,” the decree reads. “Also, we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who’ve been to college or have a degree.”

“We have to keep our school safe and we can’t allow any secular influences in our holy environment,” it continues. “It is against the base upon which our Mosed was built.””

Satmar is one of the nine major sects of Hasidic Judaism.  Named for a town in Eastern Europe, the sect began to immigrate to the United States after the Holocaust.  In all, there are currently around 250,000 Hasidic Jews in the United States, with 95% of the population living in and around New York City.  The group forms their own self-sufficient communities and economies in an effort to stay separate from the secular world.

Men and women of the Hasidim are kept separate when they are outside the home.  Men are required to be devout scholars of the Torah, as well as other Jewish teachings.  They are expected to wear 19th century Eastern European clothing, long beards, and payots, or sidecurls, along with black, wide-brimmed hats.  In turn, women remain in the home as wives and mothers rather than go out to work.  They are not allowed to wear pants, and their knees and elbows must always be covered.  Those who are married must keep their hair covered.

Ultra-orthodox Jews typically do not associate with people outside the faith, or with the modern world.  Jewish activists believe that these activities come out of a fear of secularism and materialism, writes Siobhan Fenton for The Independent.

There have been previous efforts to ban education for women by members of the ultra-Orthodox sect.  In December, a senior Haredi rabbi in Israel referred to education for women as being worse than the Holocaust when speaking to a group of high school principals.

Last year, reports surfaced of ultra-Orthodox Jews in north London stating that women were not allowed to drive, calling it immodest for them to do so.