Schoolgirl at JFS after five-year fight

By Leon Symons, September 3, 2010

A family's five-year fight to get their daughter admitted to JFS ended when she joined the school's sixth form yesterday (Thursday).

Maya Lightman took her place at the school in Kenton, north west London, as a direct result of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court rulings last year that JFS had discriminated directly against a boy, known only as M.

M was refused a place at the school because his mother's conversion to Judaism through the Progressive movement was not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi. His father challenged JFS's admission rules and won after a lengthy courts procedure. M is now a pupil at JFS.

The Lightman family's situation was more complicated. Kate Lightman, who was JFS's head of English studies until this year, had undergone an Orthodox conversion in Israel. When she and Mr Lightman decided to marry, because he is a Cohen and not permitted to wed a convert, they could not marry in Britain. Eventually they were married by an Orthodox rabbi in New York.

The marriage of a Cohen to a convert does not affect the halachic status of any children if the mother had an Orthodox conversion. But after the birth of their first son, Mrs Lightman was told by the Beth Din that it did not recognise her conversion because she had entered
a "forbidden" marriage and so could not have converted sincerely.

They finally came to their senses

Consequently Maya's application to JFS was rejected, even though her mother was a senior member of staff.

While the family did not take part
in the court action brought by M's father, they became an interested party in the High Court proceedings. Mr Lightman made a submission to the Supreme Court.

Last December, after the Supreme Court ruling, Mr Lightman wrote in the JC: "After battling to get my daughter into JFS for over five years,
we now have victory. For the past five years we tried to talk to the Chief Rabbi, the Beth Din and the Office of the Chief Rabbi (OCR), only to be met with silence. We would have chosen a private conversation, but the OCR and Beth Din ensured this could never happen.

"The victory is a partial victory because the courts forced the OCR to accept their responsibilities and not because they finally came to their senses and accepted my wife's Israeli Orthodox conversion or the founding, multi-denominational ethos of the school."

Last updated: 9:06am, September 3 2010