Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni / Flash 90
A Tel Aviv classroom (illustrative)

The new school year at a state religious school in Givat Shmuel, in the Ono Valley on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, began with an explosion when parents and the students discovered that one of the children in the third grade is a transgender who was born a girl but identifies as a boy. It is still unclear how the student was outed.

One mother whose child attends the third grade, told Ono News, “The administration knew about the story and probably most of the teachers did too, but it dropped on the parents like lightning on a clear day.”


Some of the third-grade parents decided to stop sending their children to school after the story had been exposed in the general media, arguing that it harms the school’s reputation.

Havruta, a religious LGBTQ group, tweeted on September 9: “In the service of transphobia and under the auspices of the hate lobby, there is a demonstration in Givat Shmuel against a religious trans boy. Roni Sassover initiated. What is the demonstration about? It’s against the welfare of a religious trans child, while tampering with his genitalia. Did we say pedophilia already? Go home, make something for Shabbat.”

The parents’ attorney, Roni Sassover (soon to start serving as the defunct Yamina party’s MK in a dissolved Knesset – DI), responded to attacks on the school and the parents from LGBTQ groups, saying: “The argument that has been made in recent days as if the parents are fighting against an 8-year-old child is sheer demagoguery. The parents are fighting for the Torah education they chose to send their children to. This education has simple rules such as Shabbat, a yarmulke, tzitzit, and a dress code.

“The Religious Education Administration, the municipality, and the school deceived and hid the truth from the parents and this is at the heart of the problem. It’s a reality in which the behavior of a mother who secretly decides that her two-year-old daughter was a boy, is imposed on the community, exposing an entire school to the progressive agenda contrary to everything the school believes in and educates for, that’s the problem.”

On September 7, 17 third-grade parents sent the administration a message saying, “After discussion with the school and the school’s rabbis, the solution given to us as parents was one of inclusion and acceptance of the phenomenon within the framework of a Torah religious school. We, the majority of the third-grade parents, are not ready to contain the phenomenon and accept the damage to our spiritual character and the emotional damage that our children are going through and will go through in the future.”

The 17 parents added that they decided to transfer their children as one cohesive group to another school in their city. “The problem is not only ours but is your shared by other parents in the school as a whole,” they explained. “We are asking for your assistance for a situation we have been fighting over for more than a week. We’re getting closer to some sort of a solution for us, but we’re worried about the rest of the school and its character. Many of us also have children in other grades at the school. We need your help in this fight to stand firm on the way our children are educated, and our insistence that we are not ready to apologize for our way of life and our desire to educate our children according to our will.”

Yaakov Ariel, the former chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and a former candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, Israel, who is counted among the leading rabbis of the religious Zionist movement, told News12 on Monday: “This is a sensitive issue that requires caution and care. In principle, there is no such thing as sex change, and the matter must be handled with care, sensitivity, and responsibility. In Jewish halacha, it’s impossible to change one’s gender, there’s no such thing. But there’s a child here, who needs to be treated with sensitivity and determination and not in the media. We must handle the matter with sensitivity and delicacy, there’s a child here.”

I counted four references to “sensitivity” in the good rabbi’s advice, and nothing about the craziness of a parent’s decision to alter her daughter’s gender identity at age two.

It should be noted, however, that the discussion of transgenders is almost non-existent in religious Jewish society in Israel, and when there is a reference to this issue, it is usually limited to male-to-female transfers, while female-to-male is largely ignored. Still, there are Orthodox rabbis in Israel who say that despite the severe prohibition involved, based on several unambiguous Torah verses and rabbinic deliberations, it must be recognized that these are people with complicated feelings, and they must not be treated in a disparaging and judgmental manner.

One such rabbi is Yuval Cherlow, who wrote in Kipa that “the heart is broken seeing the pain” of the transgenders, and that since the Halacha refers to them as having a mental disorder that currently is incurable, religious society is obliged to strive to reciprocate kindness to them and to observe the mitzvah of visiting the sick in its broader sense, which includes assistance in all the ways permitted by halacha to alleviate their suffering.

Even if her mom is, you know, progressive.


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