Girls should have equal Jewish studies

The doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in education, says Yehudis Fletcher, as one school is criticised for segregating girls and boys

June 20, 2019 12:21

Ofsted has criticised King David High School for segregating religious girls from religious boys, and both of those groups from the less religious mixed-gender remainder of the school.

The doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in education. Separate educational facilities are unequal, not only because they prevent children from socialising with each other —an arguable benefit — but primarily because segregated schools very rarely provide equity, either.

Ofsted’s report highlights what is widely known in the community. Yavneh girls face a restricted curriculum and fewer opportunities than children in the other streams. Yavneh girls do not choose this — their parents choose the stream. They choose the girls-only environment, and the added kodesh (Jewish studies) curriculum.

It is to our community’s detriment that timetabling has meant that for Yavneh girls, this results in fewer options for GCSEs, even fewer extra-curricular activities than Yavneh boys (who were allowed to join in the main school’s production of Hairspray, which Yavneh girls were excluded from); and crucially, while they have more kodesh than King David children, they have less than the Yavneh boys’ stream. Yavneh girls are discriminated against on the basis of their sex.

Restricting religious knowledge in girls, while teaching boys more, creates generations of men who know more than women and women who have to rely on their husbands and fathers to tell them what to do. Knowledge, access to knowledge via text-based skills and fluency in the language of Torah learning empowers students to develop an informed relationship with their Judaism, that is based on autonomy and bechirah chofshis, free choice. Denying that to girls while granting it to boys is a travesty.

Yavneh is held up as the jewel in Manchester’s crown. It is a place where parents don’t need to choose between an Orthodox education and excellent academics but there is always room for improvement.

Orthodox Jewish boys and girls deserve equality, too.


Yehudis Fletcher is ambassador for Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance

June 20, 2019 12:21

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive