A strictly Orthodox school in Stamford Hill has been criticised for covering up references to “homosexuals” as victims of the Nazis in a textbook.
Humanists UK has called on the educational authorities to act over the state-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney, North London.
But while the school explained it had taken the step to protect its girls from “sexualisation”, KeshetUK, the charity which promotes equality for LGBT+ Jews, said it was never right to “airbrush” them out of history.
Humanists UK (formerly the British Association of Humanists) published on its website details of a history textbook it said it had been censored by the school.
The word “homosexuals” had been inked out in a reference to Nazi policy on Aryanisation.
In a section on modern American society, the organisation complained that references to women smoking, drinking and driving with men had also been censored out, as well as an image of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing and mention of the legal right of abortion.
Jay Harman, education manager of Humanists UK, said it was “simply not acceptable for a state-funded school to take such a censorious, homophobic and misogynistic approach to education”.
But a spokesman for the school countered, “We are concerned that Ofsted continuously jumps to the tune of small pressure groups like the humanists and the National Secular Society that have a very clear anti-Jewish agenda.
“Their current noisy campaigns against circumcision, shechita, Jewish schools, housing and respecting the dead make it clear that the humanists’ idea of a modern Britain is one that is free of observant Jews.”
He dismissed the complaint about the censorship of the books as “old news. It is well known that we redact our textbooks and it has been reported time and again as well as being well documented by all relevant authorities.”
The policy, he said, had “nothing to do homophobia or misogyny but is to protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents’ wishes and religious beliefs”.
However, Dalia Fleming, executive director of KeshetUK, said there was “no risk of sexualising young people by talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, any more than talking about straight or cisgender people and their lives.
“LGBT+ people exist in every community, and young people benefit from learning about themselves and the diversity they will encounter living in a country where LGBT+ people do not have to hide.
“Trying to airbrush LGBT+ lives out of our history and culture is never right if we want to create a world where people don't feel forced to choose between their LGBT+ and Jewish identity”.
Concillor Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, commented: “We want every child in Hackney to receive a well-rounded education, to give them the best possible start in life, so it’s important that these claims are investigated.”
While recognising many Charedi residents in Hackney wanted to educate their children within the traditions of their community, she said “that should never come at the expense of a good education.”
The Department for Education said it was awaiting the outcome of the school’s latest Ofsted inspection.
Yesodey Hatorah, which was rated a good school when last visited by Ofsted four years ago, had been due for a regular inspection