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Thursday, June 15, 2006

London Orthodox School Admits Non-Halachic Jews

This is a bit surprising:
The decision by a London-area Orthodox day school to admit students with only a Jewish father is provoking outrage in parts of the community.

King Solomon High School’s move brought a vehement reaction from some members of the local community, including Rabbi Alex Chapper, who said the policy “effectively recognizes the liberal definition of who is a Jew.”

The school’s action also has re-opened a debate about the future of publicly funded Jewish schooling in the face of shifting Jewish demographics in London and surrounding areas.

Rabbi James Kennard, King Solomon’s headmaster, defended the move. With a 2003 English law prohibiting state-funded religious schools from holding empty places for members of their own faith, the school had to seek solutions to fill the spaces or admit students with no Jewish ancestry.

Under the law, all schools must have 30 students in each classroom.

“It wasn’t our decision. The law dictates what we must do to fill our spots,” said Spencer Lewis, the school’s director of Jewish studies.

The decision apparently has met with much opposition in the London Orthodox community, with suggestions by a local Rabbi as to how the school could have tried to adopt other cost-cutting measures before this one.

But I can't imagine that this comment, by Rabbi Chapper, will endear him to many of the school's newest enrollees:
As alternatives, Chapper suggested removing a grade, reducing admission numbers or admitting students with no Jewish ancestry, adding that accepting Muslim students would be better than the current situation.
The first two examples would probably have gotten his point across without risking the offense and outrage his third suggestion is likely to cause.

40 Comments:

Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

::briefly speechless::

Whoah - not really able to process this one...

OM: who do you think is going to be offended by the third suggestion the "non-halchic Jews" or Muslims? And do you feel that he was out of line by saying this?

7:08 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


OM: who do you think is going to be offended by the third suggestion the "non-halchic Jews" or Muslims? And do you feel that he was out of line by saying this?


The non-halachic Jews will surely be offended by the suggestion.

7:14 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

And do you feel that he was out of line by saying this?
I feel like it was a foolishly chosen statement. Is his point about intermarriage? It seems that it is - to some extent, from his quote in the article:

“An Orthodox school shouldn’t be giving this message. It’s wrong,” he told JTA. “If a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, an Orthodox school shouldn’t give out the message that it’s OK.”

But what about this point:

“A majority of parents chose to send their children to the school in the knowledge that they would be mixing with only Jewish children, and this is now undermined,” he said in a recent sermon. “Parents of existing pupils have been betrayed.”

He seems then, to be saying his point is about Jewish kids attending school with non-Jewish kids. If that is his problem, then why would Muslim kids have any different Halachic status then children of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother?

I just think that the point was poorly made, ill-chosen, and likely to inflame commmunity relations.

That said, I don't by any means think that a school that considers itself to be Orthodox should acept children that are not considered Jewish according to orthodox law. That includes children from a non-Jewish mother, as well as two non-Jewish parents.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM= I agree on both your points. The school shouldnt be doing this, and the rabbi is an ass.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Yosef said...

I understand where he is coming from . To accept a child from this mixed marriage would be understood as "recognition" of the child being Jewish. However no one would mistake a muslim child as being Jewish.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Yosef said...

"He seems then, to be saying his point is about Jewish kids attending school with non-Jewish kids. If that is his problem, then why would Muslim kids have any different Halachic status then children of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother?"

It would not be any different in regard to that problem, however it would involve the additional problem I mentioned above.

7:54 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Yosef said...

I understand where he is coming from . To accept a child from this mixed marriage would be understood as "recognition" of the child being Jewish. However no one would mistake a muslim child as being Jewish.


As I said - his comment was not wisely chosen, even if you can see where he is coming from. He can make his point that the children should not be accepted to an Orthodox Yeshiva, without resorting to a statement that is sure to be inflammatory.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please do not assume that my comments signal agreement with the London decision, but is this any different then what my Behai (sic) friend who attended a Jewish School in Iran, because it was the best school around. If this is a good school, and it accepts the legal mandates and the rights and responsibilities that come along with it it has no choice, either accept whomever applies or close up. That is the risk of accepting public funding.

Is the mandate for YU any different?? YU accepts federal funds and therefore cannpt discriminate admissions based upon religion. I do not know if any "non-halachic" jew has ever applied, but I gather that YU's requirements for Jewish Studies keeps out most.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best part od the original article accessed by the link on mom's posting is the picture with the children dressed in srticy uniform. Maybe some of our local schools should consider the same.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Anon 8:06 - Yu is a bad analogy. First of all, its college, so the people going there are already (almost) adults, and the imperative to keep them in a solely Jewish atmosphere is less. Secondly, if YU had non-Jews in attendance in any appreciable number, I doubt it would be viewed as an Orthodox institution much longer, but rather as a regular university with a very strong Orthodox presence. For example, no one considers Cardozo or Einstein to be Orthodox institutions, despite their being part of YU.

Also, can we please not refer to the Rabbi as an A**, or with any other such terms? You can believe that his comments were a less thna optimal reaction to the situation without saying those type of things about Rabbonim.

I will have a (surely much awaited) reaction to the substance of the post later tinight , but now I have to go.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's comforting to know that rabbis on the other side of the pond are as stupid abd corrupt as ours.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was most certainly a foolish comment by the rabbi. the ruling by the school is very distressing.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Goy Guy said...

“A majority of parents chose to send their children to the school in the knowledge that they would be mixing with only Jewish children, and this is now undermined,” he said in a recent sermon. “Parents of existing pupils have been betrayed.”

I suppose that if the other families feel so betrayed they can just use their own money to pay for the school. Ha ha ha....

9:34 PM  
Anonymous BobF said...

If only the father is Jewish or in some other way are not really Jewish but agree to spend all
those hours learning Jewish topics.are NonJewish, they must have some interest in Judaism. As long as they follow the same rules about Kosher, etc.and the school is careful not to give them an aliyah, etc. whats the problem. Especially if the alternative is less classes, which means less Jewish kids get a Jewish Education.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'a 2003 English law prohibiting state-funded religious schools from holding empty places for members of their own faith'

Those of us who want government funding of Orthodox schools in the United States should realize that it will mean accepting non-Jews into the schools.

'For example, no one considers Cardozo or Einstein to be Orthodox institutions, despite their being part of YU.'

I teach at Einstein. It basically functions the same as any other medical school, except that there are no classes on Shabat or Yom Tov, and the cafeteria is kosher. But those are two HUGE differences! In a typical medical school class, roughly half the students are Jewish and half of the Jewish students are Orthodox. The fraction of Jews in the graduate programs is much lower (Americans in general just don't want to pursue PhD degrees any more.)

Touro also has an Osteopathic medical school with campuses in California and Nevada, and just got approval to start a conventional medical school in New Jersey. I hope they succeed.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

bobf - I see two major problems with the approach you suggest (leaving aside the problem with the kids from Jewish fathers). The first is a matter of having children in the school who do not share Orthodox values, and the influence they can and will have over the other children (the orthodox children will influence them as well, but that really doesn't help any). The second and related problem is that it will be impossible in a mixed class for a Rebbi to deal with any issue that distinguishes between Jews and non-Jews, or to explain why it is important for Jews to keep themselves a separate nation. It will be very difficult to explain to a child that his friend from school is "different" and likewise quite awkward for a class to learn through, for example hilchos ribbis, where a Jew can't charge ribbis to a Jew but may charge to a non-Jew.

CH - I was wondering when someone would bring up the voucher analogy. It is certainly a concern, but I see no reason that a voucher program couldn't be structured to avoid this problem (by tying the money to the child, and not requiring anything more than the basic accreditation schools currently require.

Thanks for the additional info on Einstein. I'm sure it is a more accomodating place to attend medical school for Orthodox Jews than many other schools because of the factors you mentioned. The question for comparison here though is whether you would feel comfortable sending your children to a public school that was one quarter orthodox with a kosher cafeteria and an accomodating schedule (no school on Shabbos, yom tov, the Rebbe's yahrtzeit, etc.).

12:12 AM  
Blogger Goy Guy said...

On a more serious note than my post above...state funded religious schools in Great Britain are in my opinion a disaster and there is a lesson to be learned.

Ever think about why all the goyim in Belfast are always killing each other? You would think that since Catholics and Protestants have had the chance to assimilate with each other as British citizens for generations they could sort of get along. After all, these are civilized europeans in the oldest democracy in the world. But they don't get along, do they, because all their kids go to state supported religious schools where the bigotry can simmer away in isolation from their neighbors. Same with the Muslims in other British cities, I suppose.

I'm not against religious schools. I've attended religios schools AND public schools. They both have their ups and downs. I believe that the public schools in the USA are one of the main reasons immigrants from all over have always managed not to killl each other (too often) after a generation or so here.

Can you imagine what New York would be like if all the Greek kids were in one school and the Turks in another? All the Chinese kids in one and the Japanese in another...etc. Not just today, but since they got off the boat a hundred years ago? Generations of isolation from each other, maybe still not speaking english, etc.

It would be like Paris or Belfast. Think about it.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'I see no reason that a voucher program couldn't be structured to avoid this problem (by tying the money to the child'

It doesn't work for federal student aid to colleges, which is tied to the student. Colleges that wish to receive aid need to certify that they do not discriminate.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

"It doesn't work for federal student aid to colleges, which is tied to the student. Colleges that wish to receive aid need to certify that they do not discriminate."

Well then I guess I'd have issues with that type of program then. When Congress (or a State legislature) is passing a voucher law, there is no reason they can't make it different.

1:11 AM  
Blogger David said...

What I'm surprised at is that missing of this as a kiruv-opportunity (even though we might not have wanted it):

the kids of jewish fathers are gentiles, yes, but they're likely going to identify themselves as Jewish in the future. This is an opportunity to make sure that they
a) know what Judaism is and
b) know that they don't meet the halakhic definition of "Jewish," but that the "problem" can be rectified by conversion.

Yeah, it's a lemon, but why don't any of them make lemonade?

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhat Anonymous said...

"It doesn't work for federal student aid to colleges, which is tied to the student. Colleges that wish to receive aid need to certify that they do not discriminate."

This is extremely naive. There is no way to stop a "reasonable" law that all inistitutions receiving any sort of federal money through vouchers or any other programs would be not be legally bound to accept students from any creed, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Anyone who is secular would think this law would be perfectly acceptable. Franky this law is mostly in effect right now. Looke at guidestar.com and look up any yeshivos who actually file. They pretty much state that they accept kids from any religion and do not discriminate. But why pay $9000 or whatever it is for an Jewish education if you are not Jewish. Make it cheaper and that might change.

RWM

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I pasted the wong line. I was commenting on this:

"Well then I guess I'd have issues with that type of program then. When Congress (or a State legislature) is passing a voucher law, there is no reason they can't make it different."


RWM

8:11 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

RWM - If vouchers had too many strings attached, than the orthodox just wouldn't use them, same as they don't use the completely free public schools today.

As you yourself point out, technical requirements thas eough orthodox o take in everyone regardless of race (no problem there), religion or shoe size do not necessarily have any practical effect. As long as the school has enough orthodox students to fill its spots, there will always be a legitimate reason for turning away others, for the simple reason that the orthodox students will be able to do better on any basic competency tests for Hebrew/Torah education, which is part of the curriculum.

I'm in favor of vouchers anyhow, whether the orthodox community can make much use of them or not, because I think they'd improve education generally. As for their effect on orthodox schools, I don't see how they can be worse than the current system where we can't access public schools at all.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'Anyone who is secular would think this law would be perfectly acceptable.'

The experiences of Bob Jones University and Grove City College indicates that this statement is not true. Even when Grove City won its case in the Supreme Court, the Congress was so upset that they re-enacted the law and overturned the court decision (which was based on statuatory, not constitutional, issues, so Congress could do that). Bob Jones lost its case. The courts have consistently ruled that government agencies can attach pretty much any strings they want to any government aid of any form, and in the US we have a long tradition of such strings. If vouchers do happen, it is quite likely that we will have a situation like Ontario, Canada, where the Catholic schools (who accept all students regardless of religion) receive government aid but the Jewish schools do not.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'Anyone who is secular would think this law would be perfectly acceptable.'

The experiences of Bob Jones University and Grove City College indicates that this statement is not true. Even when Grove City won its case in the Supreme Court, the Congress was so upset that they re-enacted the law and overturned the court decision (which was based on statuatory, not constitutional, issues, so Congress could do that). Bob Jones lost its case. The courts have consistently ruled that government agencies can attach pretty much any strings they want to any government aid of any form, and in the US we have a long tradition of such strings. If vouchers do happen, it is quite likely that we will have a situation like Ontario, Canada, where the Catholic schools (who accept all students regardless of religion) receive government aid but the Jewish schools do not.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess what--the day schools here accept kids with non-Jewish mothers, too. And they don't seem to care.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Chana said...

To take David at 7:34's comment one step further:

"What I'm surprised at is that missing of this as a kiruv-opportunity (even though we might not have wanted it)"

Not only that - If there are families where the non-Jewish spouse is pursuing a halachic conversion, I'd think it would behoove the London Bet Din to require any school-age children to be admitted to day school ASAP, if they don't already.

Obviously it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. A family that has no interest in growing Jewishly, and is going to continue to have lunch at their local Hoggy's every Saturday, would be a poor choice for kiruv. But a family with a halachically non-Jewish mother who is interested in sending their kid to day school and wants to incorporate the kid's education into the family's overall desire to increase Yiddishkeit should be welcomed with open arms.

Refusing that kid, but welcoming a Muslim kid, is sending a disgusting message and would be a decision that would justify a black eye on that community's Orthodox rabbinate.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Chana said...

(P.S. As if a Muslim family would want to send their kid to a Jewish school???)

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If vouchers do happen, it is quite likely that we will have a situation like Ontario, Canada, where the Catholic schools (who accept all students regardless of religion) receive government aid but the Jewish schools do not."

I agree competely. I used a double negative in my original comment so I think I was misunderstood. I meant to say that all inistitutions receiving any sort of federal money through vouchers or any other programs would most likely be legally bound to accept students from any creed, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Anyone who is secular would think that this law would be perfectly acceptable.

And at the kindergarten level there can be no competency test used to turn away non-Jewish kids that could stand up in court. What will most likely happen is that certain schools at first would take the vouchers and actually let anyone in. Some wouldn't. And some will take but cheat. The potential for chillul hashem and the almost certainty of this voucher system coming with strings attached makes the plan a non-starter in my opinion.

RWM

10:27 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Well, well, another good reason to oppose public funding for orthodox (or Conservative or Reform)day schools.

You take the King's shilling, you dance to his tune.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

RWM - Woudn't a system where Jewish Kindergartens didn't take vouchers (and were separate institutions) but the rest of the Jewish schools did be preferable to the one we jhave now? Or to reiterate my point - how could the school's financial situation vis-a-vis government funding be worse than it is now?

11:27 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I believe that the Day School in Minneapolis that receives voucher money does have non-Jews in it, and from what I understand this is a more right-wing school.

And, I believe that the parents are happy enough to have the money and not the tuition.

I will try to look it up, but there is a Radio Clip on OURadio where the Menahel speaks about the situation.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous jdub said...

money=control. You want the feds' money, you takes the feds' control.

Catholic schools (the ones primarily pushing for this) don't have a problem with it. We do. Gov't control is inherently tied to gov't funding or subsidies. I'm with Charlie Hall. This will happen in America, too, if gov't starts funding religious schools.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The article is somewhat lacking--the JC covered this a few weeks ago.

Removing a class (not grade) was decided, by the school and Redbridge education authority, to not be an option. (Currently, KS is five-form entry, 150 students. One proposal was to reduce it to four form.)

Removing a grade--not possible. All English secondary schools are the same age range (unless they choose to axe the sixth form, probably not an option). Don't know where JTA got this idea from.

Ultimately, the school had to decide how to fill empty places--a problem that will only grow because the Ilford community is shrinking, and surplus JFS students will no longer attend KS now that Yavneh is opening in Borehamwood. Jewish students already get a very free pass here as they go to great lengths to ensure no non-Jews attend.

The law is explicit: If students from the faith of the school are not sufficient to fill available places, other students must be admitted if they wish. Faith schools in England may only prefer members of their faith. If some Orthodox Jews are so incensed by this, they can pay for United Synagogue schools to go private and decide their own admissions criteria. (I find it hard to take these pronouncements over KS or JFS--none of these Orthodox rabbonim would ever send their children there.)

King Solomon is effectively a community school. Yes, most of the parents attend Orthodox shuls--as do a majority of English Jews. But that does not equate to halachic observance. I really don't think most King Solomon parents are as fussed about these half-Jewish kids as some rabbis think they are. The Jewish atmosphere is an attraction but not decisive--it is hte combination of Judaism and high academic standards that attracts parents. If the schools were not up to snuff academically, parents wouldn't send their kids there.

I can't say I'm loving the decision, personally, but the fuss over it rather misses the point in many respects.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

er, Jewish schools get a free pass here, not Jewish students...

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fyi - 1.Many if not all community schools in the US accept children regularly who are not 'halachically' Jewish and this includes many orthodox community schools. Orthodox Jews in NY live an unusually cloistered existance and have little experience of what is really happening in most of the world where the Jewish population is dropping at unprecedented levels.

2. English Jewish population has dropped by more than 50% in the past 50 years.

3. King Solomon is a state-aided school, parents pay $0 to educate their children, they are simple following the law; they have no choice.

4. There are Jewish schools in many places include Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Liverpool, and others, where a large minority or a small majority of the students are not Jewish at all.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

King Solomon is a state-aided school, parents pay $0 to educate their children, they are simple following the law; they have no choice.

Not quite true. There is a levy to cover Jewish studies, a few hundred pounds a term. Theoretically, it's voluntary and they can't make you pay it, but at least one school has used very heavy-handed tactics to make parents pay.

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