Principal bans wearing Jewish religious item in school, students furious

Principal of high school in central Israel filmed telling students they are not allowed to put on tefillin in school courtyard.

By World Israel News Staff

The principal of a high school in central Israel came under fire Thursday, after he was filmed telling students not to wear religious Jewish items on school grounds.

In the video recording, Shai Stern, principal of the Ostrovsky High School in Ra’anana, can be seen ordering students, including several new immigrants, not to wear tefillin (phylacteries) on school grounds, with the exception of the school library or in closed rooms.

Stern can also be seen yelling at students who refused to comply or argued with him.

“You chose to learn here, so you will behave according to the rules that I set,” Stern said.

One of the new immigrant students responded by saying: “I came to Israel to put on tefillin; is this the period of the Roman occupation? Do I need to hide when I perform mitzvoth [commandments]?”

Stern insisted, however, telling the students: “Stop before I get angry, you came to study at a state school, behave according to the school’s conditions.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi called on Education Minister Yoav Kisch to have the principal called in for a formal hearing over the incident.

“I call on Education Minister Yoav Kisch to have the principal summoned to explain to him that this is the Jewish state. And furthermore, issue a directive to all school administrators reminding them that wearing tefillin is a previous commandment which Jews risked their lives to keep for generations.”

“Furthermore, even if such a principal has forgotten what it is to be a Jew, we are in a democratic country where everyone has freedom of religion. Kudos to the students who answered him with their Jewish heads held high.”

Education Minister Kisch responded with a statement, noting that the school includes a number of religious students and that tefillin are regularly donned by students.

“Based on my examination along with the regional administrator and the school’s principal, the situation looks to be quite different. People don tefillin daily at the Ostrovsky High School.”

“The school is a [secular] state school where there are also traditional students and religious immigrant students, since the school has on campus a Hebrew ulpan. Putting on tefillin is and will remain an inseparable part of life at the school, and no one is planning on changing the status quo.”

“The accepted protocol for the school in this regard is that tefillin can be put on in classrooms. It was not the principals intention, in the comments recorded in the clip, to prohibit putting on tefillin, but to enforce the school’s policies regarding wearing tefillin in classrooms.”