Discrimination against Sephardim has become a growing issue in the Haredi world in Israel, but one which has taken a backseat to the more pressing questions of gender inequality and the religious-secular divide. My research has revealed that new Haredi feminist movements are increasingly engaged with the intersectionality debates of mainstream equality movements, and Sephardi discrimination is often inextricably wound up with other community struggles. Ashkenazi women with whom I engage articulate an Orientalist-type perception of Sephardim, including a rhetoric of cultural superiority. Sephardi women describe the way in which they have experienced discrimination as overly sexualising; most discrimination has occurred around issues of access to Ashkenazi institutional services like schools, which are perceived by both Sephardim and Ashkenazim as higher quality. Women are beginning to engage with the question of Sephardi discrimination through new Haredi feminist movements, which are gaining support despite Ashkenazi rabbinical denouncements of women politicians. Women may, ultimately, be the drivers behind anti-discrimination movements within the Israeli Haredi world.
Heather L Munro received her PhD in Anthropology from Durham University. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled The Future is Female: New Political Movements and Social Change in Haredi Society in Israel. She is a member of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society, and Politics at Durham. She completed her MPhil in Social Anthropology here at Oxford in 2015 with distinction.