Haredi Orthodox rabbi’s daughter gets top honors from Belgian college

Jul 12, 2018

(JTA) — The daughter of a haredi Orthodox rabbi from Antwerp was among eight recipients of a special distinction for excellence from one of Belgium’s largest colleges.

Rezi Friedman, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in child psychology, received the Karel de Grote University College’s annual Grote Award on Saturday night, the Het Laatste Nieuws daily reported.

Although she grew up in one of the world’s most insular haredi communities, Friedman said at the award ceremony, “My Jewish faith was never an obstacle. I never had to go against my religion.”

Karel de Grote University College has 12,000 students and is made up of more than a dozen smaller colleges.

Friedman is the daughter of Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a Brooklyn-born rabbi who has been excommunicated in Vienna and later in Antwerp for his anti-Israel views and legal fights against representatives of Belgian Jewry.

“I am of course very proud of my daughter,” Moshe Friedman told JTA.

In 2013, he enrolled his two boys in a haredi all-girls school to challenge gender segregation at such institutions that are recognized by the Belgian authorities.

“Even some of my enemies told me that my daughter’s bringing an honor to the community with this award, it offsets the anger from these fights,” he said.

Separately, a Jewish high school operated by Chabad-Lubavitch in Berlin took top honors in the capital city’s state Regents exams. Hebrew was recognized for the first time by the German government as a tested subject in those exams, according to a report Wednesday on Chabad.org.

The students of the Jewish Traditional School finished with an average score of 1.37 on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1.0 representing the high end. The average for the 103 schools that took the test was 2.4, according to the Senate Department of Education. Six of the students at the Chabad-run school registered exceptional results.

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