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Jewish schools admissions declared unlawful.

(69 Posts)
StewieGriffinsMom Thu 25-Jun-09 17:42:25

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StewieGriffinsMom Thu 25-Jun-09 17:44:01

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onagar Thu 25-Jun-09 17:54:45

I'm not Jewish, but as far as I'm concerned being jewish is a religion and .. well it would help if Jewish people called themselves Israeli or something because the same word is also used to speak of their ethnic origin.

Additionally, (even on MN) disapproving of the Jewish Faith has been claimed to be racial discrimination. To say that is to claim that it is a race not a religion.

I think it can't be had both ways.

onagar Thu 25-Jun-09 17:56:35

I realise not all Jewish people ARE israeli of course. It's just that the two things must be seperated and that would be as good a term as any.

PortAndLemon Thu 25-Jun-09 18:01:16

Mmmm, but as I understand it (and I may be getting the wrong end of the stick) it was the school that was operating in terms of Jewishness as a race and not Judaism as a faith (i.e. child from non-practising family that was impeccably Jewish for generations was given precedence over child from devout practising family where the mother was a convert and hence not Jewish enough) and the judgement was that you can't do that -- i.e. was in favour of treating Judaism as a faith group rather than an ethnicity.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 25-Jun-09 18:05:02

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PortAndLemon Thu 25-Jun-09 18:16:16

Well, the Appeals Court sort of does -- after all, in more Orthodox Judaism in particular it's very difficult to convert in and so de facto there is a racial/ethnic/however you care to define it element to Judaism. IIRC you can identify the Cohenim by their Y-chromosomes, for example (although of course that is patrilineal rather than matrilineal). But by saying that a school can't discriminate in favour of Judaism as a race/ethnic group, only in favour of Judaism as a faith system divorced from questions of ethnicity, it seems to be arguing that any such racial/ethnic component ought to be disregarded by any state-sponsored enterprise. I think.

pooka Thu 25-Jun-09 18:20:54

If the school accepted pupils who were christian/atheist/muslim in terms of their religious practice, on the basis that the child's mother was jewish and therefore the child would be jewish by default, it does seem that the decision is based on ethnicity rather than religious practice.

Jewish as in , carrying the blood/genes of a mother who is Jewish. Rather than Jewish as in observant of the religious practices.

Think is a very interesting situation.

LovelyTinOfSpam Thu 25-Jun-09 18:26:56

It is an interesting story and comes on the back of quite a lot of religious schools (of all types) in this general area of london being found to be breaking the rules about who could go and couldn't anyway. People having to pay "donations" to get in, schools asking illegal questions such as employment and education levels of parents and so on.

Personally I am against the idea of state funded schools being able to discriminate on the grounds of religion at all. So to me it makes little difference whether they are operating discrimination based on where you go to church, who your mother is, what you wear on your head or where you go to worship.

edam Thu 25-Jun-09 21:19:47

About time too - have seen stories about the JFS before and wondered how on earth they were getting away with this.

Noonki Thu 25-Jun-09 21:24:33

I am still waiting for the day faith schools in general are declared as illegal.

Until the schools stop dividing our children along religion (and therefore so often race lines) the racism in this country is going to remain.

frogs Thu 25-Jun-09 21:32:24

It's an interesting case tho. Because most over-subscribed non-jewish faith schools do have what is essentially a test of religious practice. They can define that in different ways, eg. baptism within x months of birth, first communion by age 8, attending church x no. of weeks a year, participating in parish activities, letter from priest, or any combination of the above.

And I guess for most children wanting to be admitted to Jewish schools, there would effectively be a very large overlap between the ethnic and religious criteria. But because the school is so oversubscribed, you have secular, non-practising families wanting admission and being given priority over families who actively practise their faith but are not considered Jewish (or not Jewish enough, ethnically speaking). Which does seem wrong really, given that the stated purpose of a faith-based school is to support families who want their children educated in the practice of that faith.

edam Thu 25-Jun-09 22:37:28

Is that the stated purpose of religious schools? Just realised I've never seen one. Back in ye olden days when I went to a CofE middle school I'm not sure there was any of the fuss you get now, it was just the local school.

edam Thu 25-Jun-09 22:38:45

'one' i.e. a statement of purpose (tempted to say mission statement but that would be an awful pun and I am trying VERY hard to resist, honest...)

frogs Thu 25-Jun-09 22:45:03

I think CofE schools is a different animal, edam, what with the CofE being the established church and all.

For catholic schools, educating dc in the faith will pretty much be the stated aim, assuming that they have a reasonably high proportion of catholics. And I'm guessing most non-christian schools will see their purpose similarly.

It's the not-quite-complete-overlap of judaism the religion with jewishness the ethnicity that makes this case so distinctive -- there are no parallels in any other faith, really.

c&P from teh JFS website:

"The outlook and practice of the School is Orthodox. One of our aims is to ensure that Jewish values permeate the School. Our students reflect the very wide range of the religious spectrum of British Jewry. Whilst two thirds or more of our students have attended Jewish primary schools, a significant number of our Year 7 intake has not attended Jewish schools and some enter the School with little or no Jewish education. Many come from families who are totally committed to Judaism and Israel; others are unaware of Jewish belief and practice. We welcome this diversity and embrace the opportunity to have such a broad range of young people developing Jewish values together."

Given that they're okay with taking kids with no background in Jewish practice (unlike the Hassidic schools, say), i'd have thought they'd be on very dodgy ground refusing a child on the basis that he isn't ethnically Jewish enough.

And it would appear the Appeal Court agree.

edam Thu 25-Jun-09 22:57:16

Takes us back to the old argument about why taxpayers' money should be used to fund religious indoctrination, then.

(My Catholic-school-educated father says the purpose of Catholic schools is to stuff children full of fairy stories and terrify them into obeying the church. grin)

onagar Fri 26-Jun-09 13:44:47

I know it's wicked of me, but I found this amusing because they must be frantically consulting now. "err which way around do we define it so we get to carry on doing what we want?"

HerBeatitudeLittleBella Fri 26-Jun-09 16:22:53

"I find it very troubling that we are still circumscribed by the discourse of Jew=race and not Judaism as a faith."

Well it's that dodgy school which is insisting on Jew=race as opposed to religion. Very dodgy indeed.

There are valid reasons why the state might sometimes define Jewish as a racial notion rather than a religious one, because a non-religious Jew is just as likely to be the victim of anti-semitic discrimination or attack as a religious Jew. I can't remember if we've got a law against religious discrimination, there's been a lot of discussion about introducing one, but I'm not sure if it's been done. However, even if we did have, it would not cover anti-semitic discrimination against non-religious Jews, so you would still need an ethnic definition of Jewish in order to protect that group. Sikh's are also described as an ethnic group under race relations law, I think because they would not have been covered by race discrimination if they were specifically targeted for their religion, but I'm not sure. But technically, anyone can become a Sikh, you don't have to be from the Punjab to convert. So it's a bit of an anomoly, but a practical one.

bleh Fri 26-Jun-09 16:31:20

I wonder if the court's decision to treat being Jewish as an ethnicity rather than religion is to do with the fact that in England and Wales, legally speaking, on CofE is regarded as a "religion". (this is purely legally speaking). The reason is that they started trying to define what religion is, and got into huge knots over it (for example, Jewish vs. Wicca) so decided to just stick with the state religion as the definition of "religion". For many others, they did class them as "ethnicities", so as to still have them captured for discrimination purposes. I believe, for example, that under the law if you are ultra-orthodox Jewish you are considered an ethnic minority, regardless of whether or not you are 100% "ethnically"/genetically Jewish.

As for the ruling: as the JFS website says, ""The outlook and practice of the School is Orthodox." which means that it falls under the Jurisdiction of the United Synagogue. All Orthodox Jewish organisations do not consider non-Orthodox conversions to be valid, so they do not consider the mother's conversion to be valid.

HerBeatitudeLittleBella Fri 26-Jun-09 16:35:29

But they didn't class muslims as an ethnicity, which is why I think there has been discussion about religious discrimation.

Someone once told me that they didn't originally introduce religious discrimination laws at the same time as race discrimination laws because it would have caused lots of trouble with northern ireland which was based on religious discrimination. I don't know if that's true though.

HerBeatitudeLittleBella Fri 26-Jun-09 16:36:48

But the court isn't treating jewishness as an ethnicity in this case, is it, it is saying the school is and it's illegal because faith schools can only discriminate on religious grounds, not racial ones?

Or have I misunderstood?

bleh Fri 26-Jun-09 16:38:48

From the article:
"The three judges - Lords Justice Sedley and Rimer, and Lady Justice Smith - said it was clear that Jews constituted a racial group defined principally by ethnic origin and additionally by conversion."

bleh Fri 26-Jun-09 16:41:32

so the issue was that: because the mother's Reform conversion was not recognised, and being Jewish is matrilineal, her son was not considered Jewish so could not be admitted

chaya5738 Fri 26-Jun-09 16:44:20

onagar, your posts are so confused and bizarre. They make no sense at all. And where they do they are actually quite offensive. Why should Jewish people have to call themselves Israeli simply to help you out? Catholics don't have to call themselves Italian.

Dispproving of the Jewish faith isn't racial discrimination but saying or doing prejudicial things against Jewish people is.

You can have it both ways actually - someone can be religiously Jewish but not racially (ie: they have converted). And someone can be racially/ethnically Jewish but not be religiously Jewish because they don't practice or their mum wasn't Jewish. Or someone can be both racially and religiously Jewish. World War Two demonstrated these different types of Jewish identity sadly and clearly.

I think the reason people are struggling to get their heads around this complicated concept of Jewish identity is because they have grown up in a Christian country and therefore can only understand religious group membership in terms of Christian criteria.

bleh Fri 26-Jun-09 16:44:50

Oh wait, the definition of religion as CofE may just be for the purposes of blasphemy:
"Another case[138], reaffirming that the protection of the blasphemy law extended only to the beliefs of the Church of England and that Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" book could not be prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam".
Not too sure about on discrimination grounds

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