Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UK Jews divided on response to government defining Jewishness


LONDON - To fight or not to fight?

That question has bitterly divided the Jewish community in Britain following the Supreme Court ruling a month-and-a-half ago striking down a Jewish school’s policy of limiting admission to the children of Jewish mothers.

The ruling, which said that state-funded Jewish schools may not award places on the basis of whether a student’s parent is Jewish because it contravenes Britain’s Race Relations Act, went beyond forcing an expansion of admissions criteria to children whose Jewish identity is a matter of dispute between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.[...]


  1. Mit-titled post.

    The gov't isn't defining Jewishness. It decided that our definition defies existing British Law. No one said we're wrong. Just that the law against racism excludes our keeping our schools for Jewish students only. (Because someone can be born a Jew, regardless of personal faith.)

    It is still problematic, but falsely turning this into them telling us what to believe doesn't help win the debate.


  2. They aren't mandating that a non-Jew be counted in a Minyan, just that they be allowed to go to school.

    Why would a non-Jew want to attend a school where he wasn't recognized? I think it's better that the kid can go to school and learn enough halacha to know he's not Jewish, and be able to make an informed choice about conversion. That's what we owe non-Jewish kids whose parents are raising them as Jews. I don't think we owe the parents.

  3. Let's see how the "nonzionists" and "antizionists" use the political apparatus to achieve their goals now, and let's see them explain to us how it is justified according to their shita. "Fight?" Who says Jews can "fight" the gentile authorities?! Hypocrisy at its finest.

  4. Splitting hairs about what the British gov't is and isn't saying about halacha ignores the point. And when a country decides that not allowing women to count in a minyan ,serve as eidim or rabbis is gender discrimination will you still be singing the same "they aren't telling us what to do" song?

  5. "Why would a non-Jew want to attend a school where he wasn't recognized?"

    Apparently, M does.

    The solution is to send your child to chareidi schools which don't get government funding. Whether in Israel or Chutz L'Aretz, goverment funding leads to government mandates, which inevitably lead to conflicts with halacha. Welcome to Golus.

  6. The issue isn't about making excuses for the British Gov't. It's knowing what the problem is well enough to know how to combat it.

    The legal battle here is to loosen their definition of ethnic barriers so that the school can continue to select only Jewish students. It's not to fight some non-existent law defining our religion for us.


  7. If you're going to take government funding which is paid for by all taxpayers, you have got to accept the rules that come with it. The alternative is to decline funding but how many schools can afford to do that and maintain their current standards?

  8. Usually a JSacks fanFebruary 10, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    I like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, but in this case (and in the very limited context provided by this thin article) I'm not sure what the basis of his position is.

    It's not a ruling seeking to give any mandates to a private institution, because the school is statefunded. Nor does it threaten the school's autonomy--like, say, by dictating curriculum. Rather the court seems to be ruling quite correctly that an interested taxpayer has equal claim to admission to a privately designed curriculum that will educate them about their non-Jewish status.

    Probably much is omitted from the article, because I for one see no basis for complaint against the court's decision.

  9. Mida Keneged Mida for Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sucks, he overplayed his hand where he refused to accepted an Israeli Orthodox conversion of kid’s parent in the because he did not like the rabbi in that municipality now he has to accept non Orthodox conversion.

  10. Garnel,

    This is not about school funding, and would apply to schools that don't take any government money.

    It's a law preventing racist acceptance policy. The law is so broad, that rejecting someone who believes in Judaism but whose mother isn't Jewish and thus isn't a Jew (the child isn't a ger) is prohibited.

    The Jewish community needs to tighten the law so that it protects the people it intends to but doesn't get in our way.


  11. As I understand it, schools are allowed to base admissions on practice. For example, a school can say that only parents who keep taharat hamishpacha, or have a mezuzah, or keep kosher, or attend Shul regularly, can come to their school.
    The only thing they can't do is decide admission based on birth, which is racist.
    So the frum schools (which non-halachic parents don't want to send their kids to anyway) can accept only those who act like Jews.
    The problem is that many schools, such as JFS, are mainly for children who are not observant, and not from homes that are observant. Therefore there is no practice that separates between halachically Jewish and not.
    There are already Jewish schools that are forced to accept non-Jews because of low enrolment. A friend of mine says that the best students in her class are all called Muhammad! But a Jewish state funded school has no option to reject any applicants if they can't fill their places with Jewish children.
    As I understand it, JFS (and the other similar schools) are finding practices that differentiate between the pupils they want (halachically Jewish) and those they don't want. Having found some practical difference between the two they can admit based on that.
    (JFS recently moved to new grounds, and now has one of the most technologically advanced campuses in Europe, as well as excellent exam results, so many parents want to send their children there).

  12. Marranos - interesting,7340,L-3846069,00.html


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