Legitimizing public schooling and innovative education policies in strict religious communities: the story of the new Haredi public education stream in Israel

Shai Katzir, Lotem Perry-Hazan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study explored how a group of private Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) schools legitimized an innovative non-mandatory reform. Specifically, it examined the circumstances that facilitated and hindered a coincidence of wants between the schools and the Ministry of Education, which resulted in signing agreements that changed the status of the schools from private to public. The study drew on interviews and on various documents, including contracts, summaries of meetings, and work plans. The conclusions portray the correspondence between the top-down and bottom-up processes that facilitated the reform. At their intersection, discursive interactions transpired between the Haredi inspectors at the Ministry of Education and school leaders, reflecting a mutual aspiration toward pragmatic legitimacy. The prominent barriers to the reform derived from the Ministry of Education’s strategic assumption that a quiet, unregulated reform would generate less resistance. However, this assumption led to actions that ultimately reduced the effectiveness of the discursive interactions and their ability to produce pragmatic legitimacy. We argue that to legitimize innovative non-mandatory educational reforms in strict religious groups, the State should speak in several voices: through discursive interactions led by cultural mediators, but also through official publications, regulations, and marketing campaigns that would strengthen the reform’s pragmatic legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-241
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Until the NHE reform, almost all the Haredi schools were private schools, which are termed in the law as unofficial schools (Compulsory Schooling Act 1949, Article 1). Public schools are owned and managed by the State and the municipalities, while unofficial schools are owned and managed by private associations. Public schools and the two largest networks of Haredi unofficial schools – the Independent Education school association and the Wellspring of Torah Education school association – are fully funded by the State (Budget Foundations Act 1985, Article 3A; Compulsory Schooling Act 1949, Article 7). The remaining unofficial schools receive funds ranging from 55 to 75% of the level of funding provided to public schools (Compulsory Schooling Act 1949, Article 10A; National Education Regulations (Recognized Institutions) [Recognized Institutions] 1953; Unique Cultural Educational Institutions Act 2008).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Politics
  • haredi
  • innovative education policy
  • legitimacy
  • religious schools
  • state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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