Haredi Jews in Britain Face Their Own Showdown with the Government over Schooling

Nov. 10 2022

As in both the U.S. and Israel, some Orthodox Jews in the UK worry that their schools will face governmental scrutiny for deviating from standard curricula. What is particular about the British case is that Ḥasidim are not only concerned about the introduction of secular studies, but also about sex-education requirements imposed by the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted), the official body responsible for overseeing schools. Simon Rocker writes:

The government is looking to close a loophole whereby institutions such as yeshivot that teach an exclusive religious curriculum do not count as schools under the current legal definition and therefore escape Ofsted scrutiny. An estimated 1,500 strictly Orthodox teenagers of school age in Hackney—below the age of sixteen—are thought to be enrolled in yeshivot where they pursue purely Jewish studies.

If the Schools Bill [put before parliament, and likely to be tabled for the time being], were passed, yeshivot would be treated as independent schools and required to teach some secular subjects, as well as relationships and sex education, including LGBT awareness. Ofsted would get new powers to investigate unregistered institutions and home-schooled children would have to be registered with the local authority.

Defenders of the yeshivot argue that their educational system produces well-adjusted, law-abiding citizens, whose wits have been sharpened by years immersed in the classical education of Talmud; and that their youth can always take career-oriented training after they emerge from yeshivah. They will also point to efforts to improve secular tuition in strictly Orthodox primary schools in recent years (efforts, it has to be said, that have followed pressure from Ofsted). . . .

However, the demands of relationships and sex education remain a red line that only strengthens the resolve not to bow to the state. So far there has been no indication the government is willing to budge. As one senior education official in a council explained it to me, teaching about LGBT identity is a matter of safeguarding so that children who might experience feelings of difference might receive sympathetic treatment. Yet it could be argued that compelling ḥaredi schools to raise this in the classroom might not be the best way to support such children within those communities.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Haredim, Hasidism, Jewish education

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy