WhytheBoard­can’ttalk­forme

The Ortho­dox are right to approach the gov­ern­ment di­rectly about ed­u­ca­tion, rather than re­ly­ing on Pro­gres­sive Jews to rep­re­sent them

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS - CHARLES GOLDING

AND SO, IT starts. A small item in the JC last week, which all but the com­mit­ted reader would be for­given for miss­ing or skip­ping. Ortho­dox to get their own voice on schools. An­other step up the lad­der in the rise and rise of vo­cal Jewish Or­tho­doxy in the UK. In short, the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity wants sep­a­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion when dis­cussing mat­ters of Jewish ed­u­ca­tion with the gov­ern­ment. No longer does the UK’s Charedi com­mu­nity feel the Board of Deputies rep­re­sents ef­fec­tively its ed­u­ca­tional aims. And make no mis­take, this is the first in a line of is­sues where Ortho­dox Jews who be­lieve in the To­rah and halachah (and not the pick’n’mix ver­sion avail­able at your lo­cal re­formed book­stores) are start­ing to say, “Err, hang on a minute. I ac­tu­ally don’t want my kids to learn that Adam and Eve is on the same moral level as Adam and Steve, what­ever the gov­ern­ment wants us to be­lieve this week. I want some­one to tell them that on my be­half.”

The Ortho­dox are bit­ing back as they be­gin to de­mand to be al­lowed to speak for them­selves and not through a moral de­flavouris­ing ma­chine, where all views are equally pre­sented and weighted as of equiv­a­lent worth.

And while the Board shifts around perched un­com­fort­ably on its allthings-to-all-per­sons fence, many Ortho­dox folk are putting their money where their mouths are and form­ing new com­mit­tees.

Don’t mis­un­der­stand me, please. The Board does a fine job. It’s been around for close on 250 years and I think it’s mar­vel­lous that the found- ers seem­ingly still run the place. (Okay, I do ques­tion the need for 300 or so rep­re­sen­ta­tives for just 270,000 UK Jews, when we have a Par­lia­ment of 646 MPs for 65 mil­lion Bri­tons.)

But that aside, be­fore you’re taken in by pop­ulist ar­gu­ments about Jews need­ing to be united and stick­ing to­gether as one peo­ple, do not fret. We are united. There are just too many op­pos­ing views, and on this oc­ca­sion (and there will be more) the old An­glo-Jewish com­pro­mise won’t wash for many of the com­mu­nity. And why should it?

Ac­tu­ally, we have loads of rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the Board. We all do. Why, I have rep­re­sen­ta­tives from shul, my sports or­gan­i­sa­tion and my Is­rael bod­ies. Loads. Oo­dles. I have more than eight peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing my views — what about you? UJIA, the JNF (both of them), BICOM (re­mem­ber them?). The Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion... and it goes on. And they all du­pli­cate mer­ci­lessly. Nor­wood, Jewish Care. As Yul Bryn­ner said: etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But in ed­u­ca­tion, the rules are dif­fer­ent. The ma­jor­ity of Jewish day schools in the coun­try are Ortho­dox and their heads and gov­er­nors want to speak for them­selves. The black hats and shei­t­els, or knit­ted kip­pahs and “I got stoned at the Wall” T-shirts, are the fastest-grow­ing com­mu­nity in the UK. Add the ba’al teshu­vah, or re­turnees to the faith, move­ment to the kiruv (out­reach) groups and you can see where the dy­namic ar­eas of in­crease are.

And that’s what’s re­ally bug­ging those who would diss the frum­mer folk. The mod­ern re­formist and lib­eral ex­per­i­ment didn’t end in a surge of peo­ple con­vert­ing to Ju­daism and in­creas­ing the num­bers. De­spite its aims and at­tempts to make things wel­com­ing and eas­ier, it is fail­ing. Pro­gres­sive was any­thing but pro­gres­sive. Or­tho­doxy is now start­ing to utilise its rights in a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy by speak­ing to those who we and they all elect to Par­lia­ment. And what’s wrong with that?

Ortho­dox Ju­daism is just, well, Ortho­dox. The way it al­ways was. Ap­ply­ing the timely to the time­less. Adapt­ing and mov­ing for­ward. How­ever lit­tle or much you and I man­age keep of it, we know what the rules are and they don’t change. Speak to any Ortho­dox per­son and they’ll tell you: they have cer­tain, very def­i­nite as­pi­ra­tions for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion — re­flect­ing fun­da­men­tal be­liefs not shared by other sec­tions of UK Jewry.

How can any or­gan­i­sa­tion or in­sti­tu­tion hon­estly claim it can rep­re­sent ad­e­quately all of Ju­daism to any­body in this area? Why should a Shabbeskeep­ing Jew have to ac­cept a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who might well be­lieve in the ex­act op­po­site of what she or he wants their chil­dren to be taught?

Just imag­ine the scene as the ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee sits down and tries to come up with a joint mis­sion state­ment: “Errr. Now, how many hours of in­ter­faith lessons should there be?” What will bind a wo­man rabbi who be­lieves in same-sex mar­riages and eat­ing prawns with a Jew who keeps Shabbes and prays in He­brew? The ques­tion has to be asked — why try to do it in the first place?

In a democ­racy, it’s the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity’s right to speak up for them­selves. Why shouldn’t they do it di­rectly? Charedi, steady, go! Charles Golding spe­cialises in me­dia and pre­sen­ta­tion train­ing at bowtie.co.uk

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