Times: British Jews in a civil war over conversion

Raw Jewish identity politics at play in Britain. And this is not such a complicated case. It's a shame they let this issue get so far and become so public without reaching a conciliation within the community.
Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question

LONDON — The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

Who is a Jew? And who gets to decide?

On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another.

“This is potentially the biggest case in the British Jewish community’s modern history,” said Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper here. “It speaks directly to the right of the state to intervene in how a religion operates.”

The case began when a 12-year-old boy, an observant Jew whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the school, JFS. Founded in 1732 as the Jews’ Free School, it is a centerpiece of North London’s Jewish community. It has around 1,900 students, but it gets far more applicants than it accepts...more
[hat tip to mimi]

1 comment:

Theophrastus said...

Here, for me is the key point: the Jews Free School is a state supported school. While I fully support traditional halacha, I do not think that a state supported school -- whether in the UK, the US, or even Israel can use halacha to discriminate.

However, this is even doubled by the mess that is the London Beis Din's recognition of conversions. You will recall that Mrs. Sagal's conversion (performed by the Lod Beis Din and endorsed by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar) was not recognized by the London Beis Din and her child was not allowed to enroll in the Jewish Free School on that basis. Apparently Israeli Orthodox battei din are no longer recognized in London.

Similarly, in the Lightman case, Mrs. Lightman was converted by the Kiryat Gat Beis Din. However, she married a kohen (in an Orthodox wedding in New York). Mrs. Lightman holds a senior teaching position at the Jewish Free School, but her child was rejected on that basis. (You will recall that halacha punishes the kohen for marrying a ger, not the woman.)

If you have forgotten, then here is an article to remind you.

The truth of the matter is that it seems that the trend in Judaism is to recognize no conversion except one performed by the local beis din. This is deeply against the spirit of welcoming gerim, and if the British Supreme Court decides to use this opportunity to teach the London Beis Din a bitter lesson, then I must say that it had it coming.