JFS: The debate heats up

By Jessica Elgot, June 30, 2009
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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?
It's not that the child is not Jewish enough, it's that he's not Jewish at all. His mother did it the easy way. She might just as well have bought a certificate online for all it's worth.
- Mark

I cannot believe the woman was ignorant of the consequences and that her children would not be formally recognised as Jewish.
-anatja

I think I see where the judge is coming from on this. JFS could get round this problem by stipulating that attendance at an Orthodox shul was necessary for entry.
-OrthoPrax

Welcome to the JFS Admission Points card. Get it stamped by your Rabbi (preferably Orthodox), the kosher butcher and the kosher baker. Points deducted if the Religious Police see you at Spurs or Arsenal on the Sabbath. Double points for an aaliyah. The 150 families with the most points each year win the right to send one child to JFS. The top family wins the Sedley Prize. You don't have to be Jewish to enter.
- Jonathan Hoffman

The debate raged across other sites and blogs.

I'm all for faith schools - despite being an atheist, but let them be private and therefore not funded by the State (and no tax breaks either). If the State is to fund them then they should accept all children within their catchment area, anything else is discrimination, which this is a clear example of.
- Addicks123 (Comment is Free, guardian.co.uk)

It is not about standards. It is entirely about the Orthodox Chief Rabbi, who does not represent anything like the entire British Jewish population, trying to give himself the power to define who is Jewish and who is not, by showing that his decisions, made in the context of membership of a particular religious group, are binding on a State funded school.
- tumblehome (Comment is Free, guardian.co.uk)

It is hard for non-Jews to understand these rules, for sure. To explain: Jews are not a race or an ethnicity, we come from all races and all ethnicities. We are closer to a "nation" whose citizenship passes through our mothers. That's just Jewish law, not discrimination.
- Nancy, Toronto, Canada (Times Online)

The school was not denying him a place because his mother was ethnically unacceptable, but because her religious conversion was unacceptable and therefore she was not part of the orthodox Jewish community. This may have had more to do with a perception that non-orthodox Jews are less conscientious in their observance of dietary and other rules practised by the orthodox community. I expect the school to appeal the judgement.
Reg Vernon (Mail Online)

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ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB: The reaction to the JFS decision
Last updated: 9:37am, July 1 2009