It’s not about cars, it’s about schools and our children

November 24, 2016 23:28

Many schools in Stamford Hill have long-standing bans on mothers driving, so the fact that the Belz's attempt to play catch-up has become such big news has left people in the area bemused.

But also bemusing is the fact that the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said her department will be investigating Belz - the most progressive non-Progressive sect in the Chasidic community. Yet her department wilfully looks away where illegal yeshivahs, and "missing teens" are concerned.

Similarly, the Board of Deputies distanced itself from Belz, calling it "marginal".

But Board officers have negotiated on behalf of Charedi schools with Ofsted. They have been present at communal meetings with Belz leaders, and the Board's own report Population Trends among Britain's Strictly Orthodox Jews makes it quite clear that Belz are far from marginal where the future of Orthodox Jewry is concerned.

Few mainstream Chasidic women in Stamford Hill drive. Not by choice but by social convention turned canon law decades ago. In some congregations, shul membership is unambiguously not available to families in which the woman of the home drives.

But is this really a story deserving of all the media attention it has garnered over the past week?

Jewish activists have long sought to highlight the sub-par education Charedi children receive.

Charedi boys are bundled off to yeshiva at 7am and sometimes earlier, where they spend the rest of the day studying. Has anyone ever asked the mothers of Charedi boys, who come home late in the evening, what they make of the one-size-fits-all regimen their sons are subjected to?

I believe it is true to say that a significant proportion of parents within Stamford Hill are unhappy with the schooling system here for both girls and boys. But Charedim in Stamford Hill are not free to complain. If mothers and fathers step out of line, it is the children who suffer, cast out of their schools for the sins of their parents.

The real story is not the ban on women drivers. It is how Belz have sought to enforce their ban. "Who uses children to enforce the community's rules upon their parents?" one radio show asked. Charedim do. And school expulsion is the weapon of choice.

Government departments and local authorities have allowed Charedi schools to operate under the radar with impunity and with little in the way of oversight for far too long.

If the Mutaween in Saudi Arabia have canes with which to prod women who dare to get in front of the wheel, their opposite number here in Stamford Hill have the headmaster's cane instead - in the form of school expulsions - and that is where Nicky Morgan should step in.

Pen Tivakesh is the pseudonym of a Charedi blogger in Stamford Hill

November 24, 2016 23:28

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