JFS: What JC readers think

July 2, 2009
Benji Sassoon
Broughton Park, Manchester
"I think if someone is not halachically Jewish and is in a school where everyone else is, then they could be discriminated against. Why would they want to be there? I don’t think the courts should be involved at all."
Howard Isenberg
Swiss Cottage


The Lawyer: How will faith and religious practice be defined?

By Michelle Chance, July 2, 2009

Defining a faith

How will faith and religious practice be defined? And by whom? This issue is likely to lead to increasing division, given that Orthodox Jews do not accept that non-Orthodox Jews practise the faith properly.

Orthodox synagogues may no longer be able to refuse to marry couples who cannot prove their Jewish lineage. They may now have to marry anyone who proves that they practise the faith.


The Teacher: Is there a political agenda behind the judgement?

By Jo Wagerman, July 2, 2009

A political agenda behind the judgement?

It is startling that for the first time in England a judge, be he Christian, secular or anything else, believes he can impose his interpretation of Jewish identity on the community. This judgement reflects the confusion between race and religion that bedevils much of English life.


Liberal Judaism has sought to build a policy of inclusion

By Danny Rich, July 2, 2009

Liberal Judaism has long and consistently argued that Judaism is primarily transmitted culturally and through example and influence. That transmission, which frequently happens to children in families, but may happen to adults too, is perhaps best described as one of Jewish education in its broadest sense.

This education equips the Jew with a sense of identity and commitment which is forged by an encounter with Jewish beliefs, values, attitudes and ideals, and an immersion into Jewish practice and Jewish mores.


A bad ruling at a bad time: To confuse religion and race is a mistake.

By Lord Jonathan Sacks, July 2, 2009

The learned judges who ruled last week that the admission procedures of the JFS were in breach of the Race Relations Act clearly did not wish to claim that Judaism is racist. Yet, by one of the great ironies of our time, a law, intended to protect Jews from racism, has now been used against them.

Since the days of Abraham and Moses, Jews have been commanded to educate their children and thus hand on their faith across the generations. We are the people who predicated our survival on education, the first in history to create a universal system of schooling.


Jews are not a race; but then again, no one else is either, race is a social construct

By Tony Kushner, July 2, 2009

Since the 1930s, Jews in Britain have sought some protection from the state against discrimination and libel.

Such moves reflected the rise of political antisemitism and wider social prejudice.

In the 1950s, with the growth of new Commonwealth immigration, there was a revival in support for anti-racist measures, but politicians and the state rejected them as being against the laissez-faire approach then adopted to “race relations”.


JFS: How it happened

July 2, 2009

The parent who sparked the case speaks out for the first time

We are delighted and relieved that this most unpleasant wrong has been corrected by the three Appeal Court judges, and that justice is starting to be done.

It is a great shame that my son and I had to pursue this case through the courts. We would have much preferred to reach a fair settlement with the school to revise its policy for the benefit of the whole Jewish community. Unfortunately, that has not been possible.


JFS: What happened?

By Simon Rocker, July 2, 2009

In 2007, an 11-year-old boy was refused a place at JFS because his mother was a non-Orthodox convert and, therefore, not Jewish according to the Chief Rabbi’s Office.

Schools are permitted to give preference to children on the basis of religion, but not of ethnic origin.

When the boy’s father went to the High Court last year, the judge said that JFS had made its decision on religious grounds.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that deciding entry on the basis of a parent’s Jewish status involved ethnicity and so was unlawful.


JFS: What's next?

By Simon Rocker, July 2, 2009


The Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks this week called for community-wide support to challenge a court judgment which he said has effectively branded Judaism as “racist”.

Writing in today’s JC, he said: “We must join together” to contest last week’s Court of Appeal ruling that, under race relations law, Jewish schools cannot award places on the basis of whether the child’s mother is Jewish.


JFS: The debate heats up

By Jessica Elgot, June 30, 2009

The Court of Appeal ruling that JFS was in breach of the Race Relations Act for its admission code has stirred deep feeling.

It was a landmark decision which could change the course of Jewish education in Britain.

And when our Judaism editor, Simon Rocker wrote a blog on the subject, your comments came thick and fast.

Here’s a sample:

It's breathtaking. Cannot a religious institution decide for itself who qualifies as a member of that religion?