Ban Kabbalah access to schools, Balls told

An Orthodox rabbi who has campaigned against a children's organisation run by the Kabbalah Centre has called on the government department responsible for education to "pull the plug" on its access to schools.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, minister of Mill Hill United Synagogue, wrote privately to Children, Schools and Families secretary Ed Balls after it was revealed in June that Spirituality For Kids (SFK) - an offshoot of the Kabbalah Centre - had been holding lessons in six schools in the London boroughs of Westminster and Tower Hamlets.

Since then, two schools have told SFK that it was no longer welcome.

Last week, the JC reported that Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks had sent two of his senior staff, together with Central Synagogue minister Rabbi Marcus, to a fact-finding meeting with two representatives of SFK after an approach from television presenter Esther Rantzen. One of the SFK representatives was Ms Rantzen's daughter, Emily Wilcox, who now uses her Hebrew name, Miriam.

In his letter a month ago to Mr Balls, Rabbi Schochet - who holds the family portfolio in the Chief Rabbi's cabinet - asked him to "nip in the bud" SFK's involvement with state schools.

He told him: "I truly believe this runs the risk of becoming a very real problem."

A reply came from a member of the DCSF's public communications unit, rather than Mr Balls himself.
The letter said that the Department "was interested to read your concerns about Kabbalah and SFK and [has] made sure your letter has been brought to the attention of relevant policy officials. However, I should also explain that we neither endorse nor ban specific teaching methods or resources, unless it is part of a national campaign for raising standards. It is a matter for individual schools to determine how to organise the school day and what teaching methods to use."

Rabbi Schochet said: "I am pleased to know that the matter has been passed on to ‘relevant policy officials'. But the suggestion that ‘it is a matter for individual schools to determine what teaching methods to use' raises serious concerns, especially where those methods may involve indoctrination.

"That SFK and the Kabbalah Centre are inextricably linked is indisputable. That the Kabbalah Centre is on some cult watch lists in America is also fact. That should surely trigger enough alarm bells to encourage policy officials to pull the plug. I truly hope they will ensure they investigate thoroughly to appreciate what is at stake here and take appropriate action."

Last updated: 3:20pm, December 22 2008