One of the rabbis who acts as a religious authority for the Hasmonean High Schools has come under fire from parents for comments they believe to be dismissive of secular education.
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Greenberg signed a statement issued by the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregation to oppose the regulation of yeshivot in the Schools Bill, which is under consideration by Parliament.
As many as 1,500 boys from the age of 13 to 16 in Stamford Hill are estimated to be attending unregistered yeshivot where they do not take secular classes.
The bill is designed to close a loophole whereby institutions such as yeshivot with a predominantly religious religious curriculum are not classified as schools under current law and so are exempt from state regulation.
The UOHC statement published in Hebrew, which called for the special recitation of Psalms on one day next week, said the published law would impinge on “our sacred yeshivot in which are educated dear youths in the traditional path without any mixture of secular studies”.
The law “poses a terrible danger to our continued existence in this city, and we must pour forth in prayer before the Creator, may His name be blessed, to remove the evil decree,” the UOHC rabbis. But a number of parents of pupils at Hasmonean reacted sharply against Rabbi Greenberg’s endorsement of the UOHC’s position.
One parent said, “Taking a public stance against a secular curriculum for teenage boys makes Rabbi Greenberg's position as a religious authority for Hasmonean untenable, in my view. If that is the ideology Rabbi Greenberg subscribes to, why is Hasmonean looking to him for guidance?”
Another told the JC, “Anyone who has those views on secular education should have nothing to do with the Hasmonean schools. I’d be intrigued how anyone can justify his continued involvement in the schools.”
A third parent found his stance “quite shocking. To say I don’t think we should be teaching secular subjects - what sort of leadership does this show to parents and boys and girls?”
A fourth wrote on Facebook, “Someone signing this letter doesn't belong in a school like Hasmo, let alone have any kind of influence on it.”
But a statement issued by the Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust to parents on Friday defended Rabbi Greenberg. It referred to an “article in the press” which had suggested “that Rabbi Greenberg was not supportive of secular education”.
The article (which was not in The JC) had been “based on a misrepresentation” on the contents of the UOHC notice, the trust said.
“The Rav would like to make it absolutely clear that he is completely supportive of all of Hasmonean’s pupils achieving the highest standards of both secular and kodesh [Jewish studies] education in line with the schools' historic and current ethos upholding Torah im derech eretz [Torah with engagement in the wider world],” the trust stated.
Rabbi Greenberg, who is rabbi of one of North-West London’s oldest Strictly Orthodox congregations, the Golders Green Beth Hamedrash (or Munks as it popularly known), has been approached for comment.
The proposals to regulate yeshivot have ignited widespread opposition in Stamford Hill with some members of the community staging protests in Westminster.
If the Bill is passed, yeshivot would be treated as independent schools and be subject to inspections from Ofsted. Not only would they be expected to teach a broader curriclum, but they would also have to meet requirements to teach about LGBT awareness as part of relationships and sex education.
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