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Charedi concern at yeshivot crackdown

‘The agenda is to destroy the way of life of the community’

    Charedi representatives have tried to block moves by Hackney Council to press for tighter legal control of unregulated yeshivot.

    A report produced for the North-East London borough said new powers were needed to ensure the safety of 1,000 to 1,500 boys aged from 13 to 18 who are believed to be studying in unregistered institutions.

    But Rabbi Yehudah Baumgarten, who represents the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations on the commission investigating the issue, said it was “shameful” for the council to campaign against a religious minority.

    At a meeting of the commission to discuss the report on Monday, he urged it to ditch the report’s recommendations except for voluntary liaison between the council and the strictly Orthodox community over safeguarding checks.

    A change in the law, he said, was “not a solution”.

    But his claim the report had “over-exaggerated” issues relating to safeguarding in yeshivot was dismissed by Rory McCallum, senior professional adviser to the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board.

    The report said the council was hampered because the law was not clear over whether yeshivot could be defined as schools.

    It also voiced concern over the lack of secular education received by yeshivah boys, calling for steps to be taken to encourage them to be taught English, maths, science and technology.

    But Abraham Jacobson, an Orthodox Liberal Democrat councillor, asked the commission to drop the recommendation about curriculum.

    The Charedi community, he argued, would accept registration of yeshivot if this covered safeguarding matters.

    But the concern with safeguarding, he said, was seen as a “big ruse” to meddle in the educational content of yeshivot.

    There was an agenda “to destroy the way of life” of the Jewish community, he warned.

    “A lot of what has been going on in the last few years is basically pandering to certain minority politicians who have an agenda which goes absolutely head-on against everything… Muslims, Christians or Jews hold dear,” Councillor Jacobson said.

    But the commission did not take on board their objections and endorsed the report’s conclusions, which will now go later in the year to the full council.

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