Jewish School Broke Race Law by Rejecting Boy, Say Judges

Daily Mail (London), June 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Jewish School Broke Race Law by Rejecting Boy, Say Judges


Byline: Laura Clark Education Correspondent

A LEADING Jewish state school broke race rules by refusing admission to a child who was not officially Jewish, judges said yesterday.

The landmark ruling will force dozens of Jewish schools to tear up their admissions policies to avoid breaching race laws.

It will also be studied by other faiths after claims that the judgment could have implications for all schools which select pupils on the grounds of religion.

The heavily over-subscribed orthodox Jews' Free School, now known as JFS, stipulates in its admissions policy that it will give priority to children whose mothers are Jewish or who have converted under the Chief Rabbi's rules. Judaism is passed on through the maternal line, or through conversion.

But it refused admission to a 12-year-old boy because his mother was not born to the Jewish faith. She had converted - but the conversion was not recognised by the Chief Rabbi because it had been in a progressive rather than an orthodox synagogue.

The Appeal Court judges ruled that this amounted to racial discrimination, saying it was illegal for Jewish schools to reject pupils on the grounds that their mother was not Jewish.

The school, which was backed by the Government and the United Synagogue, insisted its admissions policies have 'nothing to do with race and everything to do with religion'.

But Lord Justice Sedley, sitting with Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Rimer, said: 'The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or by conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act 1976.' They said the school would be within its rights to prioritise practising Jews because the law allows faith schools to select pupils on the basis of their religion. JFS governors said they intend to appeal to the House of Lords.

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks criticised the judges' ruling, saying: 'The principles underlying membership of the Jewish faith have been maintained consistently throughout Judaism's long history, as has our duty to educate our children in the principles and practice of the faith itself. …

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