Family & Education

'No future' for Orthodox Jews in Britain, says Rabbi Aaron Klein

He urges Charedi organisations to object to changes on regulating independent schools


One of the leading educational figures in Stamford Hill has warned there is “no future” for Orthodox Jews in Britain unless government proposals on regulating independent schools are changed.

Rabbi Aaron Klein, chief executive of the Belz community - one of the main Chasidic groups in Hackney - urged members of Charedi organisations to respond to a government consultation on the issue before it closes on Tuesday.

Writing in the Orthodox weekly Hamodia, he warned: “If we do not speak up and the draft is not amended to accommodate our needs, then there is no future for the Orthodox community in modern Britain and the document effectively acts as an eviction notice to our community.”

Earlier this year, one of the most influential strictly Orthodox rabbis in the UK, the Gateshead Rav, Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, warned that state interference in religious was “the most serious issue” facing British Jewry since Edward I expelled the Jews of his kingdom in 1290.

Some of the proposed changes would be “impossible” for Charedi schools to meet and overnight they could become “illegal institutions,” Rabbi Klein wrote.

Over the past two or three years, many Charedi schools have been pulled up by inspectors for not talking about same-sex relationships as part of the requirement to teach “British values” of respect and tolerance.

But as the JC reported in March, new draft guidelines issued by the Department for Education would make it harder for Charedi schools to comply with the expected standards.

Mr Klein said “a school that does not teach a syllabus that includes totally alien atheistic values could be summarily closed.”

Creationism, he wrote, had “not been spared”. According to the proposals, it may not “be presented as having a similar or superior evidence base to scientific theories.”

Mr Klein said: “Ironically, the proposed standards attempt to promote tolerance and respect for some elements of society, while being completely intolerant and disrespectful of our community and our religious principles.”

While the government was a strong supporter of traditional religious values, he argued, fears of terrorist extremism had led to efforts to broaden children’s outlooks so they “will not be enticed into joining radical movements”.

This had “snowballed into a proverbial witchhunt for anything that could be labelled ‘religious extremism’ and serves to further discriminate against religious rights and fuel a secularist agenda.”

He blamed “the extreme secular movement” for influencing policy and said many civil servants were “strong supporters of the left-wing intolerant liberal agenda”.

Rabbi Klein believed the DFE had expressed interest in "working with our community to reach a common ground. This is our opportunity to test these overtures and to see how serious they are about acceptance and tolerance".

According to documents produced by the DfE in support of the consultation, the proposed changes could result in the closure of more "ultra-Orthodox" Jewish schools.

But the government papers go on to say; "Even though children may have to move schools, or go to a different school, and this might not be the school of the families’ choice, the enforcement action would ultimately be to the benefit of children... because they are entitled to attend a school which offers a satisfactory education, whether that is another independent school or a state school. Places are available in the state sector for any child of compulsory school age living in England."

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