Orthodox to get their own voice on schools
HEADS AND governors from 40 Charedi primary and secondary schools in England are laying the groundwork for a new organisation to put the views of the strictly Orthodox community to the government.
They claim that the Board of Deputies failed to make it clear when meeting government officials that it did not represent the Charedi community.
A particular grievance relates to the Board signing up to government initiatives with which the Charedi community might not be in favour, such as a project that requires schools to organise exchange visits.
The group, led by three senior Golders Green rabbis and chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag from Manchester, met at Hasmonean Primary School in Hendon last week. Afterwards, one person present told the JC: “The purpose is to have a body that is able to speak on behalf of what are the majority of Jewish day schools in England and to co-operate with other Orthodox communal educational bodies.
“There is a distinct perception that the Board does not point out specifically that it does not represent the whole community.”
Board of Deputies’ chief executive Jon Benjamin was quick to deny this.
“We have always made clear those parts of the community for whom we speak,” he said.
“The Charedi community is not formally affiliated to the Board. We do not presume to speak for them, but we speak to them regularly. Equally, when we speak to government we make it abundantly clear that a particular section of the community has concerns that should be listened to.”
He added: “In order to safeguard the position of faith schools, we have to play by the rules of the government as set down by the government. We have to show where faith schools can work in a context that is not insular and that our children understand the wider world in which they live.”
Mr Benjamin said that the Board worked closely with the Charedi community on single issues, for example when faith-school admissions were threatened last year and when shechitah came under attack two years ago. The community withdrew from the Board some years ago when the Reform movement joined.