New Jewish primary for 2011

A new Jewish primary school in Haringey is a step closer with the announcement of plans to open on a temporary site in 2011.

Joint project leader Peter Kessler hopes it can be part of the government's Free Schools programme, where parents receive public money to set up their own schools.

The school will have a "cross-communal" ethos and four sites are being considered in Muswell Hill and East Finchley, among them an ex-garden centre and a former hospital building.

Last week, Mr Kessler met representatives from Partnership for Schools, the body charged with the delivery of the government's capital investment programmes, after the proposal was included in a shortlist of 18 parent-run projects.

"It's possible we could be in the vanguard of these new Free Schools but we would only start in a temporary site if we had the assurance we would be given a permanent home," he said.

Following a meeting with secular Jewish educational philanthropist Felix Posen, Mr Kessler is keen to introduce a course to run alongside the Jewish religious studies curriculum exploring the cultural and historical aspects of Judaism.

He also wants to investigate the legalities of using a "culture test" rather than an observance element in its admissions policy.

"It would mean us drawing up a big list of things that qualify as representing cultural Jewish status - for example, keeping Friday night, lighting Shabbas candles and having mezuzot on the doors. These are things most Jewish families identify as being Jewish, not shul attendance. It wouldn't need to be verified by a rabbi but by a senior family member.

"If there are kids who lie about their Jewish status, it's not a massive tragedy if they are that desperate for a Jewish education. The families we have consulted are really behind this idea."

    Last updated: 2:35pm, June 17 2010