The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

SOME par­ents be­lieve that Jewish schools are ask­ing over­in­tru­sive ques­tions in their at­tempts to es­tab­lish ap­pli­cants’ re­li­gious cre­den­tials.

One par­ent who ap­plied for a place for her child at the nurs­ery of the In­de­pen­dent Jewish Day School in North-West Lon­don last year was taken back by an ad­mis­sions ques­tion­naire ask­ing a de­tailed ques­tion about fam­ily pu­rity.

In an­other case, a mother whose daugh­ter was re­fused a place at the Beis Yaakov High School for Girls in Sal­ford said that one rea­son given was that her hus­band wears jeans to syn­a­gogue on week­day morn­ings.

The mother of the IJDS ap­pli­cant told the JC that she had to fill in a de­tailed form which in­cluded the ques­tion of which rabbi she con­sulted over taharat mis­phacha — the laws to do with men­stru­a­tion and fam­ily pu­rity.

Other ques­tions asked par­ents to de­scribe their stan­dards of tzniut, mod­esty, how they man­age kashrut and Shab­bat ob­ser­vance on hol­i­day, and in what cir­cum­stances they might eat in a non-kosher restau­rant.

The mother — who wished to re­main anony­mous, but de­scribed her fam­ily as “mod­ern Ortho­dox” — said: “It took me a long time to fill out. It took a lot of thought. Some peo­ple were so ap­palled, they didn’t send an ap­pli­ca­tion to the school.”

The mother whose daugh­ter was de­nied a place at Beis Yaakov in 2006 said that she and her hus­band had sought an ex­pla­na­tion from the gov­er­nors af­ter re­ceiv­ing the re­jec­tion let­ter. Also wish­ing to pre­serve her anonymity, she said the fam­ily was fully kosher and Shab­bat-ob­ser­vant.

“They didn’t think we were the right type for the school,” she said. “At meet­ings, we were told by var­i­ous dif­fer­ent gov­er­nors what they thought of us. One said he didn’t like the way I looked. They didn’t ap­prove be­cause my hus­band wore jeans to shul on week­days.”

She claimed that in a meet­ing with the gov­er­nors, she and her hus­band had been sub­jected to “in­va­sive, in­tru­sive” ques­tions and in one in­stance, she was told “pick your­self up off the floor”.

She said the fam­ily had of­fered to get rid of its television and had asked for a list of any ad­di­tional re­li­gious re­quire­ments with which the school wanted them to com­ply. “I ob­ject to the fact that I did not get a list of specifics. It was left to their dis­cre­tion,” she said.

Nei­ther the In­de­pen­dent Jewish Day School nor Beis Yaakov, Sal­ford, were able to find a spokesman avail­able for com­ment.

Un­der the gov­ern­ment’s schools ad­mis­sions code, state-aided faith schools may ex­pect cer­tain stan­dards of re­li­gious ob­ser­vance of prospec­tive pupils, but th­ese must be set by the school’s re­li­gious author­ity — a lo­cal syn­a­gogue or the Of­fice of the Chief Rabbi, for ex­am­ple — and not di­rectly by the school it­self.

A spokesman for the De­part­ment for Chil­dren, Schools and Fam­i­lies said that any guid­ance from re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties must be con­sis­tent with the gov­ern­ment’s code, which re­quires en­try poli­cies to be clear, ob­jec­tive and fair.

Al­ready, the gov­ern­ment’s re­cent in­ter­ven­tion on schools ad­mis­sions has led to some schools amend­ing their ap­pli­ca­tion forms.

For ex­am­ple, the Pro­gres­sive Akiva School in Finch­ley, North Lon­don, pre­vi­ously asked prospec­tive par­ents whether they sup­ported the ethos of the school.

In a let­ter to gov­er­nors and par­ents, Akiva deputy chair­man Clive Shel­don said it was “de­bat­able” whether such a ques­tion was in con­tra­ven­tion of the ad­mis­sions code.

But the ques­tion has been re­moved and the re­vised forms sim­ply ask par­ents about their syn­a­gogue mem­ber­ship over the past five years.

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