By Simon Rocker
October 26, 2010
Hardly a week goes by without us receiving an inquiry about Jewish school admissions.
It’s almost a year and a half since the courts forced Jewish schools to introduce new entry rules based on religious practice – and parents are still grappling with the consequences.
This week a letter came in from some anonymous “concerned parents” wondering if it was illegal for schools to use synagogue membership as one of their entry criteria.
The courts ruled last year that schools could not accept children simply on the basis of whether their parents were Jewish. This was because Jews are legally classified as an ethnic group and so to admit children according to parental descent falls foul of the laws against racial discrimination.
But faith schools are allowed to admit children on the basis of religious practice or belief.
The United Synagogue, after taking legal advice, told schools under its denominational umbrella that they could not choose pupils simply on the basis of whether their family belonged to a synagogue or not.
According to the US website: “In order to be a member of a synagogue, one has to pay a fee and for Orthodox synagogue membership, one has to be halachically Jewish. Following the Supreme Court judgment, we have been advised that synagogue membership cannot be used as an admission criterion.”
Other schools beg to differ and do use synagogue membership.
So who is right? It would probably take another court case to arrive at a definitive view…