Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are British Jews Jewish?

"The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,... [Whether the reasons were] benign or malignant, theological or supremacist makes it no less and no more unlawful."
British Court of Law in a landmark ruling this week on "Who is a Jew"

I don't know anything about British Law, but Shmuley Boteach (who lived in sunny England for many years) seems to feel that the law as it was decided the other day has some serious negative ramifications.

Shmuley basically understands it to mean that according to British law, a Jew is only a Jew if he is a practicing Jew, and a Jew is not a Jew if only his mother/parent is Jewish, and considering someone Jewish because of their mother/parent is illegal.

This ruling certainly fits in with certain non-Jewish understandings of Judaism which call it a religion. But basically, the British court has defined all secular Jews to be non Jews (and if I was a secular Jew I'd be outraged, but who knows if Brits get visibly excited about anything).

But, as we Jews know, Judaism is certainly not a religion in the non-Jewish sense, it is a nationality many of whose central laws are theological in nature.

My solution for this problem with British law is simple. All British Jews (religious and non-religious) leave stupid England and make Aliyah. It won't be the first time (the expulsion from England part that is).

(SM: we'd like you opinion here as a British judge.)

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14 comments:

Rafi said...

They haven't misunderstood anything. They are not saying that lineage is unimportant to being a Jew, they are saying that lineage is an illegal test for entry to a school in the way that you can't have a school for people whose parents are British born or black or whatever. As they say "The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act". This is not an opinion on "who is a Jew".

tafka pp said...

What Rafi said.

Further, Boteach shouldn't be taken seriously in anything he writes, not about this, or anything else. The man is looking for column inches, and nb he is no more part of the UK Jewish Community than you are, Joe. He is also not interested in British Jewry, he's far more concerned with shining his light onto the rest of the nations... It was probably when he went on Richard and Judy (the English equiv of Regis and Cathy) waving a copy of his new book "Kosher Sex" that the UK Jews collectively disowned him.

JoeSettler said...

Like I said, I know nothing about British law, but it does seem to me they are giving an opinion as to what legally defines someone as Jewish, and don't accept the Jewish answer.

tafka pp said...

The opinion isn't about who is a Jew- it is about the JFS admission's policy being "a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act", therefore, illegal.

Commenter Abbi said...

Yes, they are deciding who is a Jew for the purpose of admissions to government funded Jewish schools. When it's not your money, then you're going to be fair game for legislation that doesn't match halacha.

Instead of basing your opinions on second hand opinions, it pays to actually look up what the issue is about.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TAFKA PP: So what should JFS do? Is Hasmo also funded by the State?

Anonymous said...

As has been mentioned already, the ruling is about what can be considered a legitimate way to determine school entry policies, not who is a Jew. For sure there is plenty in the ruling to quibble over, but it's important to remember here that Anglo-Jewry has taken a hit over school entrance policy, because Judaism (and Hinduism if I remember correctly) are not considered ‘just’ religions under British law but rather are protected under the Race Relations Act in the UK. This brings additional protections. Preserving this legal status was seen as more important than winning this particular legal encounter.

The biggest problem is to be honest that the necessity to employ ‘practice based’ entrance criteria will in all likelihood make it increasingly difficult for Jewish state schools in the UK to cater to the more unaffiliated, less engaged members of the community and provide them with some semblance of a Jewish education and identity. A task that JFS was at the forefront of.

Oh and Hasmo is also State funded if I remember correctly. But because it is run by and in the interests of a small quasi-Charedi clique without any sense of responsibility to Anglo-Jewry as a whole, they are more than happy to discriminate based on going to the right shul etc. (either as entrance criteria or once you get in).

Yellow Boy

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

YB: I'm well aware of JFS and their mission (albeit, a difficult one).

"Practice based" entrance will surely be an admissions problem for them...so what will they do?

Which do you think is the worse option:

Accept non-Jews to the school, hoping that it will remain a minority, so that JFS can still educate the non-affiliated?

Or not admit those who fail to meet the "practice-based" admissions test?

N said...

Something to think about, my rabbi pointed something out to my shiur today when a Yeshiva came to plug in our Beis Medrash, and the guest advertised living in Israel as a maaleh of his place, afterwards, my rabbi said to everyone that he's preaching to the converted, British Jews don't feel a kesher to the country like American Jews do.

Perhaps this is symptomatic of why...

Anonymous said...

Jameel,

I believe JFS (and other schools) have already implemented a formal, practice based entrance policy. Something to do with registering Shul attendance I think, I'm not sure, it's probably being discussed ad infinitum/boredomin the Jewish Chronicle if you can be bothered.

JFS was never going to start accepting non-Jewish students because in London demand for places in Jewish schools outstrips supply. This is not the same as out in the sticks where the King David and other schools also have non-Jewish students.

In terms of attracting the unaffiliated, on the one hand this policy change may 'force' some of them into shuls (at least until they get accepted to the school), but more likely, the community as a whole will have to develop new innovative ways to get people involved in Jewish life. I have no idea how doable that is.

Yellow Boy

Anonymous said...

"The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,... [Whether the reasons were] benign or malignant, theological or supremacist makes it no less and no more unlawful."
British Court of Law in a landmark ruling this week on "Who is a Jew"

I don't know anything about British Law..."


WTF??? Qualify for admission TO WHAT? TO WHERE?

Is this for entry into Britain?

Way to be unclear!

Commenter Abbi said...

Oh yes, they're only letting practicing Jews into England now. It's the law!

Anonymous said...

1. i'm a jew born and bread nald ived in england all my life. i'd be in israel now if i could but i can;t.
so - 2. this ruling affects every single jewish school in england that takes govt money. and the problem is that they refuse to accept the Jewish ruling opn what is a jew.
I don;t like the tone of many of theses comments. a jew living in chu"l is an inferior jew? do you define a jew's 'worth' based on whether or not they live in E"Y, or basedon whetehr they are american or british?
btw, it is not true that fewer british jews ake aliyah than american jews, percentage-wise many more british ejws make aliyah, but it seems like less b/c there are more american jews overall.

Zionist Jew said...

Having read the last paragraph of the Rabbi(I suppose)is the best answer yet.For British Jews to make aliya sooner than later(as he pointed out--not the first time England expelled the Jews from there)Until that is Oliver Cromwell's Interegnum.
What I did not understand was:The British ruling on "who is a Jew" etc.Most of us know:The distaff side Jewish then the chid automatically is considered Jewish.
Like everything plagiarized from Judaism(by Islam) The reverse is the case.i.e it is petrilineal.
That is what I said about Obama on occasion.I heard it vehemently at Memri for sure,and it is true.
If Obama's father was a Muslim(and he was)it follows he is considered a Muslim full stop.Cannot get away from it.

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