United Synagogue rabbis have voiced concern at the impact of the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS), the first cross-communal Jewish secondary school, which is due to open in Barnet next year.
They made their anxieties plain at a session with US lay leaders during the annual US rabbinical conference in Hemel Hempstead.
Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, said an open session to discuss matters of concern “included a conversation about JCoSS. A unanimous view was expressed across the whole spectrum of rabbis that JCoSS does not represent the ethos of the United Synagogue and as such is not an option for anyone seeking to give their child a Jewish education in keeping with that ethos.
“We further recognised the need to do more to promote the many wonderful Orthodox Jewish schools in our community.”
Another rabbi observed that JCoSS “is not an Orthodox school but is trying to attract Orthodox children. If United members decided to send their children to a non-Orthodox school, obviously we wouldn’t be happy about it.
“One of the things that rabbis are keen to avoid is bad feeling that might drive people into the arms of the school. So that’s why they want to play it low-key.”
US chief executive Jeremy Jacobs and joint-treasurer Russell Tenzer were among guests at the ground-breaking ceremony for JCoSS last month.
According to the JCoSS website, its Jewish studies will reflect the “broad intake” of pupils and “no child should be excluded on the basis of religious observance”. Interviews for a director of Jewish education were taking place this week.
The school is sending information packs to Jewish and other schools in a number of boroughs and meetings for the parents of prospective pupils include one next month at Simon Marks Jewish Primary in Hackney. A JCoSS spokesman reported “a lot of interest from every section of the community”.