Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises an Important Question

The Orthodox attempt to create a monopoly is not just a coercive religious force acting in Israel where the Haredi rabbis impose their will whenever they feel like it. Haredism is attempting to flex its muscle in Great Britain, as an English court is faced with one of the most important discrimination cases of modern times in English history.

Here’s the background to the case. A Jewish father married a woman who had a conservative conversion; by all accounts this family takes their Judaism very seriously but not seriously enough for the Orthodox Jewish High School, which denied their young man admission to the school on the grounds that his mother failed to convert in accordance with “Halacha,” as interpreted by the Haredi-Chabad rabbinic establishment.

But some religious (Orthodox does not have a monopoly on this term either) people have backbone and courage.

To the family’s credit, the parents finally decided to sue the school for discrimination and lost. However, the Court of Appeal, however, reversed that decision on grounds that question one of the foundational tenets of Jewish identity: that, short of conversion, the only way one can be Jewish is to have been born to a Jewish mother. Conversion to a non-Orthodox movement is also a viable path. As the Court of Appeal noted,

“The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,” the court said. It added that while it was fair that Jewish schools should give preference to Jewish children, the admissions criteria must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined. The same reasoning would apply to a Christian school that “refused to admit a child on the ground that, albeit practicing Christians, the child’s family were of Jewish origin,” the court said. Continue reading “Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises an Important Question”