Amid Scandal, Sapir College Orders Respect for Jewish Custom

February 13, 2015  

Yet another controversy is underway at the Sapir College in Sderot this week after it’s anti-Jewish art display – this time, over the use of a common letterhead in the religious community. 

Observant Jews in Israel and abroad often mark the phrase בס״ד in the corner of all documents, meaning bisiyata dishmaya, translated loosely as “with G-d’s help.”

But a professor from the college’s board of examinations, named only as Dr. Ido, had asked all professors not to mark their whiteboards with the phrase during exams, according to Walla! News

Sapir College President Professor Omri Yadlin issues a scathing response to the incident, according to the news site, and demanded that all students and professors respect the differing values among the student body. 

“Yesterday, during the examination, an event happened which has become a media scandal and led to many harsh reactions and questions,” Yadlin thundered. “Our professor told the exam proctor, who was writing the exam guidelines on the board, not to add בס״ד to the board.” 

“The attendant did not obey his instructions and wrote it on the corner [as is custom – ed.],” he continued. “The lecturer, who visited the classroom during the test, ordered her to erase it. When she refused to do so, he deleted the caption himself.” 

“The incident took place in front of the students taking the exam and some people believe that it was emotionally damaging to the believers in the room,” he added. 

Yadlin explained that the professor had “not meant to offend anyone” and that, in the professor’s view, the addition simply violated the exam instructions he had given the proctors to follow. The professor apparently added that students were free to write the acronym on their exam pages for that reason. 

“Although I understand the logic of things, I can not accept them,” Yadlin concluded. “It is clear to all of us a lecturer does not have to write the word בס״ד on the board, but on the other hand, a professor can not tell the proctor, a believer who feels it is her duty to register the phrase, not to write it.”

“If that is so important to the lecturer, the lecturer is always allowed to write his own instructions on the board [instead of employing proctors, as is typical Israeli university practice – ed.],” he continued. “The lecturer was explained to regarding the gravity of the event, he received an explanation and a reprimand, and promised it would not happen again.”

Yadlin noted that the issue is a matter of freedom of speech, as well – but noted, “as we look to respect our own feelings and values, so we are also commanded to respect the feelings and values of those among us.”

“I’m not saying this because I feel this is the right thing for our institution,” he added. “I’m saying this because it’s the right thing to do.” 

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