It's the right decision for the community

The progressive view

By Lucian Hudson and Danny Rich, December 17, 2009

Liberal Judaism wholeheartedly welcomes the Supreme Court decision.

Although arguably legally complex, this issue is for Liberal Jews a simple one: Jewish identity is a matter of sincere commitment, and genuine identification. Liberal Judaism has, therefore, right from the outset, supported those families who have felt discriminated against by the Jewish Free School (JFS) Board of Governors.

Liberal Judaism considers that Judaism is transmitted culturally within families through example and influence rather than genetically. This process of cultural identification and commitment is more difficult to capture in a simple statement or legal principle but it more accurately expresses and explains Jewish identity than any biological test.

If a biological test were to be relevant, Liberal Judaism would not support one which discriminated in favour of Jewish mothers and against Jewish fathers.

It is for these reasons that Liberal Judaism is at variance with the traditional ways of defining “Who is a Jew?” This might have remained a fundamental, even academic, but certainly not necessarily public, matter, had it not been for the rules of admission of JFS.

The JFS chose to test “Jewishness” for admissions by reference to the Office of the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue.

Liberal Judaism considers this a politically-motivated decision and one which is inappropriate for a state-funded school which ought be serving the whole Jewish community without discrimination. This matter has been a self-inflicted wound, yet one we can all learn from.

It has risked the Jewish community being portrayed as more concerned with petty, territorial squabbles than providing the best of Jewish education to the widest number of Jews.

Liberal Judaism plays its full role in the British Jewish community, and hopes that the community can in the future demonstrate its pluralism, without recourse to the courts.

Last updated: 3:23pm, December 17 2009