Jewish schools called to trial

, Allie Winegar Duzett, Leave a comment

In London, people are beginning to ask: are Jewish schools racist?

The question stems from a recent case where a child was turned away from a Jewish school because he was not deemed to be Orthodox:

JFS is oversubscribed and gives priority to children who are deemed by the Chief Rabbi to be Orthodox Jewish. The 2,000-pupil school rejected a 12-year-old boy, known only as M, because his mother had not converted to Judaism in an Orthodox synagogue.

In June, the Court of Appeal said such a decision was “a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act”. But the school argues that it is central to whether a child is seen as Jewish. The case goes to the heart of whether being Jewish is a religious or a racial matter.

Mr Balls said the ruling hits admissions policies of 38 Jewish schools. “It is also likely that the admissions arrangements of approximately 60 Jewish independent schools are unlawful,” he added.

The Appeal Court ruling suggested JFS’s admissions policy indirectly discriminated on racial grounds as most people defined as Jewish by religion were also Jewish in ethnic origin. This was wrong and may have “wide ramifications”, Mr Balls said.

The fight against discrimination in schools may not have its originally intended effect. Religious schools should have the right to select their students based on religion–and it is a known fact that Jewish heritage is just as much racial as it is religious. The Jewish legacy is passed from mother to child; this is why you can have “secular Jews” in the first place.

Those who support the existence of religious schools must watch the debate in London–with our Supreme Court now apparently recognizing international law, it is not safe to assume that the decision in the UK will not affect religious schools in America.

Allie Winegar Duzett is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

*Blog entries by interns reflect their personal opinions only and not that of Accuracy in Academia.