Outspoken Charedi anti-sex education activist Shraga Stern told by Stamford Hill rabbis to cease campaigning

Mr Stern has been at the forefront of vocal attempts to prevent the teaching of sex education, particularly on LGBT issues, in Charedi schools


Stamford Hill’s rabbinic establishment has prevailed on an outspoken activist to stop campaigning on schools amid concern over his tactics.

Shraga Stern had been at the forefront of attempts to exempt religious schools from having to teach LGBT issues as part of the government’s relationships and sex education policy.

But his belief in more vocal protest had brought him into conflict with the establishment-backed Strictly Orthodox umbrella group Chinuch UK, which  prefers behind-the-scenes lobbying of ministers and education officials.

Mr Stern was recently summoned to a meeting with the rabbinic head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Ephraim Padwa.

Mr Stern said, “I have always only followed the instructions of our rabbis and I continue to do so.”

His efforts included the launch of a weekly campaign newsletter Kol Hachinuch and commissioning legal advice to put the case for religious freedom to the Department for Education.

But some in the Charedi community were angered by his tactics, incuding his willingness to make overtures to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

However, dissident voices continue to be heard. While Mr Stern has taken a back seat, it appears others have taken on responsibility for Kol Hachinuch.

In the latest edition, a letter from Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, a nonagenarian yeshivah head on the most traditionalist wing of the Stamford Hill community, warned against educational compromise.

He said there were naïve activists who “mistakenly think they can save [the schools] through compromise and surrender”.

Although he mentioned no names, his words are likely to be read as a critique of Chinuch UK.

Rabbi Schlesinger insisted “the only way” was for Charedi communities to continue education as their grandparents did and the government should know there was no room for compromise.

Only this week, Education Secretary Damian Hinds emphasised that children should learn about the existence of same-sex relationships before they leave school.

But Charedi leaders believe the guidelines may be flexible enough to offer their schools some respite.

Primary schools are not required to refer to families with same-sex parents, although Mr Hinds said they were “strongly encouraged” to do so.

Secondary schools have discretion at what age they believe it appropriate to introduce such topics.

Furthermore, Charedi leaders hope that even if schools avoid LGBT issues altogether, as long as they are satisfying other educational standards, the schools may escape severe sanctions.

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