Saturday, January 16, 2016

British authorities shut down ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in London

It's taken only 40 years, but British authorities have decided that multiculturalism--at least in the case of ultra-Orthodox Judaism--has its limits. Let's see if they do more than just "consider" prosecuting unregistered Islamic schools--40 years is too long to wait.

As reported by David Connett of the London newspaper The Independent, January 15, 2016:

An orthodox Jewish school which operated illegally for 40 years and does not teach children English has been ordered to shut down.

The Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar school in Stamford Hill, north London has been ordered to close by the Deparment for Education next month after Ofsted inspectors warned that it was failing to meet the “minimum” standards required.

Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.

The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”.

The school’s failings are spelt out in a series of Ofsted reports into the school after it applied to be a private school. The reports between 2012-14 were disclosed under Freedom of Information requests.

According to the reports, the school states that “as a matter of religious principle” it does not allow pupils to learn English, nor provide for any secular education.

Despite the school failing to meet the minimum standards three times, no action has been taken to shut it down and it continues to operate.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, disclosed in December that Ofsted was considering prosecuting those involved in the running of unregistered Islamic religious schools.

A Government consultation on combating schools which “promote intolerance” will end later this month.

The British Humanist Association, which campaigns for a crackdown on all illegal “faith” schools, welcomed the decision but called on the Education Secretary to move against scores of other schools like it.

“We’re glad that the Government has now moved to shut this particular school down... However, there are clearly many more out there just like it. The situation revealed by these reports is simply outrageous and those in government who have failed to act in the past ought to be ashamed of themselves for standing idly by while thousands of children have their childhoods stolen.

“Every year, every month, every week that these places are allowed to stay open, a huge number of children remain isolated, indoctrinated, and very likely abused, so we will certainly be writing to the Government to ask that action is taken far more swiftly in the case of other schools than it has been here.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered independent school. This school’s application for registration has been rejected and on 30 December it was informed of this decision. It has been told to close by 12 February.”

The school was unavailable for comment.
In a related matter, there has been a complaint about similar schools in New York; as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 27, 2015:

Fifty-two people — former yeshiva students, parents of current yeshiva students and former teachers from schools — reportedly signed a letter sent to New York City education officials expressing “deep concern” about “the poor quality and scant amount of secular education” at the 39 schools with which they say they are affiliated.

The letter, sent to seven district superintendents in Queens and Brooklyn and New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, allege that the yeshivas are failing to meet New York state law requiring all nonpublic schools to provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what is offered in public schools. The letter urges the superintendents to “investigate the quality of secular education and, in particular English instruction, at the listed Yeshivas and to take steps to ensure that pupils at these Yeshivas receive the essential and substantially equivalent education to which they are entitled.”

The letter-writing campaign was organized by Yaffed, a 3-year-old advocacy group that seeks to improve the quality of secular education in haredi Orthodox schools in New York state. Haredi Orthodox schools devote far greater time and resources to religious instruction than to secular instruction, particularly in boys’ schools. As a result, some graduates complain that they are unprepared for careers and unable to support themselves financially.

Yaffed shared a copy of the letter in a news release, but is withholding the names of the signatories and is asking the letter’s recipients not to release them in order to protect the letter-writers’ “safety.” The group also did not release the names of the 39 schools it said were identified in the letter.

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