Reform blasts own rabbi on faith schools

The chairman of Britain's Reform movement has distanced it from the involvement of the head of its rabbinic assembly, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, in a new campaign to curb faith schools.

The Chief Rabbi, meanwhile, offered the JC a comment article extolling the "essential" role of Jewish faith schools.

Last week, the JC reported that Rabbi Romain, the Reform rabbi of Maidenhead synagogue, was among religious leaders planning to lobby the government to prevent state-funded faith schools using a child's or parent's religion in determining admission.

In a letter to today's JC giving the movement's official position, Stephen Moss expresses his "extreme regret" at the decision of Rabbi Romain to chair the national pressure group, Accord, which launched on Monday.

Rabbi Romain's prominent participation in the group - along with emeritus Liberal rabbi David Goldberg - has already provoked strong reaction.

Mr Moss writes: "[Rabbi Romain] does not speak for the Reform Movement on this issue, his views are not our policy, and he is out of step with the vast majority of his colleagues.

"The best faith schools ensure that religious minorities like ours keep the flames of Jewish tradition alive and well in an increasingly secular society."

The Reform chairman was also a joint signatory of a strong letter from Jewish leaders on Wednesday rejecting the Accord "attack on faith schools".

It was also signed by Henry Grunwald, Board of Deputies president; Mick Davis, UJIA chairman; and leaders of the Liberal, Sephardi and Masorti movements and of the United Synagogue. They wrote: "Our community, together with other faith communities, robustly defends our right to faith-based education and will ensure that the government is aware that the two Jewish signatories to Accord are in no way representative."

Mr Moss said he doubted that Rabbi Romain's involvement in Accord would imperil his position as head of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. "We don't like to stop people doing things, even if they are unhelpful, as we feel we can cope with the expression of minority views."

Rabbi Romain said: "I have always been scrupulous to distinguish my long-held position from that of the Reform movement or the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, while Akiva and JCoSS shout out loud and clear what is official Reform policy. "

    Last updated: 10:24am, September 4 2008