Who is a Jew? Britain’s Supreme Court wrestles with issue of Biblical proportions

By Incorrect Author 9 November 2009

While the question in the Supreme Court was simple – who gets admitted to one religiously affiliated school – the decision will have repercussions for thousands of schools across the UK and has also exposed fissures in the UK’s Jewish community over Jewish identity and how it is defined. The case began when a religiously observant child, whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the Jewish Free School. The school gets more applicants than it can accept. Britain has almost 7,000 publicly funded religious schools and, under recent law, such schools can give preference to students in the school’s faith, dependent on demand. While this applicant would, by most standards, be Jewish, the school follows a stringent Orthodox definition. Since the mother converted in a progressive synagogue, not an Orthodox one, the school said, “sorry”. The family sued, lost the first time around, but won on appeal - the court arguing the very definition of Judaism used was discriminatory as it depended on a test of ethnicity not religion (admission being  dependent on the mother’s background), contravening the Race Relations Act. The school appealed and a ruling is expected soon. Channelling King Solomon. Read more: New York Times


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