JFS admits child of non-Orthodox convert

Child of non-Orthodox convert admitted

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

JFS has accepted the child of a non-Orthodox-converted mother as a first-year pupil, despite its previous rejection of such children because they are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbi.

The Orthodox school, based in Kenton, north London, refused to admit any U-turn or say whether the decision had been taken because of a Court of Appeal ruling earlier this summer declaring its entry policy to be unlawful.

Russell Kett, chairman of JFS governors, said: “The school does not comment on individual applicants or students.”

JFS is due to go to the new Supreme Court next month in an attempt to reinstate an admissions policy giving preference to children accepted as Jewish according to the Orthodox definition.

The United Synagogue, the school’s foundation body, has already spent £150,000 in JFS’s legal defence.

The heavily oversubscribed school has in recent years rejected applications from children not considered Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi (OCR) — including at least two applicants whose mothers’ Orthodox Israeli conversions were considered invalid by the OCR.

But in June, the Court of Appeal ruled that to offer places according to whether a child’s parent is Jewish or not involves racial discrimination.

The case had been brought on behalf of a boy rejected two years ago by the school because his mother was a non-Orthodox convert and therefore not accepted as Jewish by the OCR.

Now the JC has learned that a different child, whose mother converted under non-Orthodox auspices, was among the 300 11-year olds who have entered the school this year.

Mr Kett stated: “The admissions for September 2009 were dealt with under the old admissions policy and the offer process pre-dated the Court of Appeal decision. The school was over-subscribed with applicants who were confirmed as Jewish by the OCR.”

But he also revealed that there were 43 appeals on behalf of children initially turned down for a place, with three awarded places by an appeals panel.

A spokesman for Brent Council, the school’s local authority, said: “All appeals must be heard by a panel independent of the school. Any decision made by the independent panel must be implemented.”

Another US school, King Solomon in Ilford, has, for several years, admitted the children of non-Orthodox converts because there were too few children qualifying under Orthodox definition.

But as a result of the Appeal Court ruling, Jewish schools have had to rewrite their entry rules for next year, to include a test of religious practice rather than ask the Jewish status of parents.

The United Synagogue said this week that parents needing a certificate of proof of their children’s synagogue attendance should register at their local synagogue by next Thursday.

Last updated: 4:27pm, September 10 2009