The Supreme Court’s attempt to force the integration of Ashkenazi and Sephardi schoolchildren was illegal and silly. Illegal because it blatantly violated the founding principle of secularism. An atheistic court cannot tell religious communities how to run their schools, especially when Ashkenazi and Sephardi religious curricula are substantially different. Silly because there was no racial discrimination, as the court alleged. Ashkenazi parents merely wanted to filter out the children of less observant Sephardi families; the children of duly observant families, even Ethiopians, are routinely admitted to Ashkenazi religious schools.

But more importantly, the court showed ignorance. For forty years, the United States attempted to forcibly desegregate its schools. The results were dismal. White parents removed their children from public and downtown schools, decreasing average learning standards there. Desegregation did not erase the racial divisions but underscored them. Intermingling causes us to like people who are similar to us, but it works in the opposite way with dissimilar people. Anti-Semitism flared in Europe precisely when Jews abandoned their ghettos and intermingled with Christian crowds. In American schools, ethnic groups form their own communities: whites, blacks, Mexicans, and Chinese exist in semi-closed groups. This tendency to associate with similar people is especially strong in children, whose sense of individuality is not yet developed―indeed, it often fails to develop even in adults. When brought together, the similar assimilate, but the different continue to rub against each other, increasing mutual animosity.

Time blurs old differences and creates new ones. The hostility between the Irish and Italians of early twentieth-century America evaporated as those groups assimilated into the American nation. The Mexicans and Chinese took their place. It is a natural human tendency to divide the world into “us vs them,” and some boundaries will always be there. When Israeli society bans Jewish animosity toward our natural enemies, Arabs, the us/them divide can take any form. It is far preferable to allow Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews a common Arab enemy than to cause them to make opponents of each other.

Racial segregation may be good