Is there an upside to the Jewish “bubble” or are faith schools part of the problem?
JC The Downside of the Jewish School Bubble. Having attended Jewish schools since the age of six (I am now 16 and taking GCSEs), I profoundly disagreed with it. In my experience, being at JCoSS has hugely strengthened my sense of identity. This has served to better equip me to stand up for myself and articulate my views rather than being afraid and ashamed, precisely because I have been nurtured in an environment where I am safe to express them. I have been taught to be secure in my identity.
There are a number of kids at my school who have anti-Israel opinions, as well as countless other views with which I disagree. Just because most of us are Jewish, it doesn’t mean that everyone thinks and feels the same. I resent the idea that we are never challenged in our views, because we absolutely are.
Teaching children to be proud of their heritage, whatever that may be, has to be better than put- ting them in an environment that teaches them to be ashamed. I think many opponents of Jewish schools underestimate our awareness of the non-Jewish world — we too live in multicultural Britain, and school is only one aspect of our lives. Contrary to the assertion made in the article, I feel confident in my ability to operate outside of the Jewish community, to recognise and challenge antisemitism, as well as other forms of racism, injustice and bigotry as my Jewish identity teaches me to.
I agree wholeheartedly with Leah Pennisi-Glaser in her concerns about faith schools.
Lord Sacks and I were contemporaries at Christ’s College Finchley in the 1960s. Many others who went on to become leaders of the Jewish community also attended. Almost half the boys were Jewish. But, around 10 years ago, my wife’s nephew was the only Jewish pupil in the sixth form.
I discussed this with a colleague who is a devout Muslim. She attended Copthall, where she had many Jewish friends. She told me that, in her community too, there is considerable pressure for children to be sent to faith schools. She also said that, despite living in a “Jewish” part of Hendon, her children do not know any Jewish children. The only Jews they come across are the stereotypes they read about in the media, or the ultra-Orthodox they see in the street.
Faith schools have many clear advantages. My daughter sends her two older children to such. But this comes at a cost. It is also true that many parents choose such schools, not out of religious conviction but out of fear their children will be isolated in a hostile outside world. But if our multicultural society is failing it is because different ethnic and religious communities confine themselves to self imposed ghettos — a problem only likely to become worse in “post Brexit” Britain. Could it not be argued that faith schools, for all their positive aspects, are part of the problem, not the solution?