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Gove: ‘Religious freedom and ethos’ of Stamford Hill schools must

Michael Gove has said the “religious freedom and ethos” of Jewish schools in areas such as Stamford Hill who refuse to teach their pupils on LGBT issues should be “respected.”

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary spoke out on the issue after visiting the impressive Hatzola ambulance and medical response headquarters in Hackney, north London.

It is understood that representatives of the local Charedi community had raised concerns about the government’s stance with the minister during a private meeting with him on Thursday.

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The Schools Bill, outlined in this month’s Queen Speech, contained new requirements on the need for a broad education and an end to the exemption from inspections of yeshivot institutions for Charedi boys aged 13 and above

Asked by Jewish News if he respected the right of some Jewish schools to avoid teaching on LGBT+ issues, Gove said: “I think these are uniquely sensitive issues and I’m conscious of the fact that we need to make sure that both religious freedom the ethos of these schools is respected, while at the same time operating within a legal framework that recognises that minority rights are respected.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary spoke out on the issue after visiting the impressive Hatzola ambulance and medical response headquarters in Hackney, north London.

“So it takes great sensitivity and tact to recognise that these issues need to be navigated but when you’ve got a schools which are providing an education that parents want those in tune with a religious ethos that must demand respect, but it’s incumbent on government to look at everything you can do in order to ensure that those schools can continue to provide a quality education. ”

Gove confirmed he had held discussions with members of the Charedi community at which “genuinely sensitive” issues were raised.

Tensions with the Charedi community have risen with some leaders seeing Ofsted as over-intrusive and often unsympathetic to its way of life.

Jewish News understands representatives of the Satmar community were among those to raise concerns about Queens’ Speech legislation relating to independent schools.

Gove continued: “I was talking earlier to the teachers and to the supporters of Jewish education and there are some genuinely sensitive issues that need to be tackled. On the one hand we need to make sure that we respect the rights of all minorities.

“There’s a genuine question over how we ensure that schools that are chosen by people who have a particular ethical and faith perspective can carry on the children being taught in accordance with their parents.

“And at the same time, the rights of all minorities.”

Jewish News understands representatives of the Satmar community were among those to raise concerns about Queens’ Speech legislation relating to independent schools.

Answering questions after being shown around the Hatzola HQ, Gove also reaffirmed his own commitment to ensure the smooth progress of government’s anti-BDS Bill, which also featured in the Queens Speech.

He said: “And let’s be clear, the BDS campaign is not about an ethical foreign policy.

“The BDS campaign is designed for only one purpose and that is to attack and delegitimise the State of Israel and the idea that there should be a Jewish state.

“And that campaign has not only undermined efforts for peace in the Middle East, it also leads to community tension in the UK. We’ve seen an increase in antisemitic incidents and the BDS campaign is a driver of that.

“We have got to make it clear that local authorities and other public bodies should not be running campaigns that subvert the UK’s foreign policy in the search for peace and exacerbate community tension.”

He also claimed there was a connection between the rhetoric of BDS campaigners, and the spate of antisemitic incidents that had taken place in Stamford Hill in recent months.

“Absolutely,” remarked Gove, when asked if he believed there was a link between BDS campaigns, and antisemitic incidents in the local area.

“The way in which certain people, some ex-politicians, some academics, others in activist movements have used rhetoric is, to my mind, unacceptable.

“I believe in free speech, of course, but I don’t believe that you should use public money or public institutions to run campaigns that encourage hate.”

He added it is “simply wrong” these activists “equate apartheid South Africa with Israel” and said ” the attempt to do so is an eexplicit attempt to delegitimise a Jewish state.”

Gove hit out at what he said was “the furious energy behind the BDS campaign when you compare it with you know, some of the atrocities that deserve our attention ….in Ukraine in Xinjiang and elsewhere.”

Gove hit out at what he said was “the furious energy behind the BDS campaign when you compare it with you know, some of the atrocities that deserve our attention ….in Ukraine in Xinjiang and elsewhere.”

Later some members of the local community were keen to downplay claims that Stamford Hill was experiencing worse crime problems than elsewhere in the capital, and suggested reporting of the incidents had merely publicised them more than in other regions.

The minister was also questioned about the current cost of living crisis, and its impact on often larger families in the Stamford Hill Jewish community, and the struggle for young people to afford to get on the property ladder.

He said:”It a big issue, the whole affordability and homeownership has only grown in the last two decades. A while back, if you were a 24-35 year-old, two-thirds of people had a mortgage. Now it’s one third.

“We have got to make sure we are more energetic in finding sites that can be redeveloped within the city in order to provide housing.”

Gove, who spoke ahead of the Chancellor’s statement to the Commons on government help the cost of living crisis, added the mortgage market also needed attention, making it easier for young people to get one.

He added:”There are some rules that Rishi Sunak and I are looking to change. ”

The Cabinet minister also said that there were “some bad landlords” who were evicting individuals “just to squeeze up rents.”

“So there are a variety of different interventions that we need to make, but I’m very, very conscious of the fact that there’s a lot that needs to change ,” he added.

Gove later heaped praised on Hatzola’s operation. “You have a community effort here, where individuals have provided a service that augments what the NHS is doing,” he said.

“It is an amazing thing to see volunteers and people who’ve given their own money to provide this ambulance service.

“I’ve heard about how they also have a plan to expand. And it’s incredibly impressive and it is just an example of the Cheredi community’s brilliant work here.

“An amazing standard in terms of philanthropy and community spirit, which is admirable.”

Yehudis Fletcher, founder of Nahamu, an organisation addressing isolationism in the strictly-Orthodox community, said:“Nahamu strongly supports the DfE’s proposals to reform the regulation of educational institutions for school aged children in a manner which will include, for the first time, a number of full-time yeshivas, most of which cater for Chassidic boys aged 13 to 16. All young people have a right to expect that their places of education will be safe, regulated, and equip them with the skills to participate economically and socially in modern British society.

“These new policies will need careful implementation. When these proposals become law, it is essential that the DfE works with Charedi communities to ensure that their requirements are not evaded, and that no Charedi child is left behind.”



Source: Jewish News

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