JFS ruling creates barmitzvah confusion

By Simon Rocker, July 29, 2010

A number of Orthodox Jewish schools are stopping organising bar or batmitzvah ceremonies for pupils because they cannot tell if they are halachically Jewish, according to the head of the United Synagogue's Rabbinic Council.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet explained that the change was being made as a result of last year's court ruling on Jewish school admissions.

Speaking last weekend at an event in north London, he said that a meeting had recently taken place for young people who act as wardens in midweek services that take place at various schools.

They had been told they would no longer be able to call up to the Torah children who entered the school from last September, because they could not know the halachic status of the child.

Some schools were also ending bar and batmitzvah ceremonies in school, even if it would have been the only one experienced by the child.

"What kind of signal does that send out to this young and impressionable generation?" he said.

But neither Malcolm Gordon, chairman of Yavneh College in Hertfordshire, nor Michael Glass, chairman of JFS in London, knew of any such changes.

In the past, Jewish schools could ask applicants for proof of their Jewish status.

But the Supreme Court ruled last year that they can select pupils only on the basis of Jewish practice, such as synagogue attendance, and not of parental descent.

Schools such as JFS and Yavneh do not limit entry simply to those attending Orthodox synagogues - and have no way of knowing from entry forms whether those who come from non-Orthodox homes meet the Orthodox definition of Jewish status.

Last updated: 12:47pm, July 29 2010