Orthodox views on women queried

A major report into the integration of minorities and community cohesion in Britain has received a cautious welcome from Jewish groups.


Dame Louise Casey’s year-long review, published on Monday, took evidence from hundreds of religious representatives, teachers and public servants, and found that not enough was being done to help religious minorities to integrate in the wider community.

Her 200 pages of findings focused heavily on British Muslims but included concerns about the segregation of women and men at independent strictly Orthodox schools, women who have not received a get, and historic problems relating to the well-being of children in Jewish institutions.

The Casey Review stated: “There are examples of inequality and intolerance in other ethnic and faith groups, with concerns expressed to us during the review about… the treatment of women in some strictly Jewish Orthodox communities (with children reportedly being taught that a woman’s role is to look after children, clean the house).”

Such instances “undermine integration and should be challenged”, the report said.

One section looked at the rise of antisemitism, citing Community Security Trust statistics.

Dame Louise, a former deputy director of the homelessness charity, Shelter, said: “Social integration is about closing the gaps that exist between people and communities.

“It is about how we get on in life, as well as how we get along with each other.”

Edie Friedman, director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, said the review had the potential to help British Jews.

She said: “The issue of segregation is something the Jewish community has raised within itself. What is important is how it is raised and how people are encouraged to see that integration is the best thing for society.

“There are two forms of separation that happen, one is physical and the other is mental. The mental is something we can see within the Jewish community. There is often a tendency to think about ‘what is good for us as Jews?’ instead of ‘what is good for Britain or society?’.”

Dr Friedman warned that the review could be used detrimentally to “demonise one community”.

She added: “The research shows that mixing is good and where mixing happens we have a better understanding of each other.”

Gillian Merron, Board of Deputies chief executive, welcomed the “general direction” of Dame Louise’s report.

Ms Merron said: “On the one hand, we must maintain a robust stance against those who would subvert our values and harm our citizens. On the other hand, we must reach out to communities — and especially Muslim communities — across the country and work with them to maintain their faith and values whilst being integrated and confident members of the wider community.”

A number of Dame Louise’s recommendations set out in her report replicated the Board of Deputies’ own proposals directed at the government to outline a “coherent strategy for community cohesion,” Ms Merron added.

“Such efforts cannot be mere lip service at times of increased tension. They must be proactive, consistent and pre-emptive.

“Ultimately, building a cohesive society may require government support but is the responsibility of us all.”

Dame Louise said that, while Britain’s population had increased by 4.1 million in the decade between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Jews in the wider population had remained static at around 0.4 per cent — 300,000 people.

Other faith communities showed rapid growth, with the proportion of Muslims almost doubling in that period to 4.5 per cent — around 2.8m people.

The Casey Review found no examples of local authority wards where Jews were the majority of the population. In Kersal, Salford, Jews made up 41 per cent of the ward’s population, making it the most Jewish area in Britain.

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