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New Religious Teaching in South African Schools Pose Problems for Jews

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Jewish parents in Cape Province have been advised by community leaders to invoke their right to request that their children be excused from Scripture lessons in the State schools which have just been revised by official edict so as to implant Christian doctrinal teachings. Scripture lessons have always been part of the State school curriculum but in the past have covered the Old and New Testaments in a broad and general way. A new regulation gazetted in Cape Province provides that the lessons shall henceforth be “Christo-centric” in order to “prepare the pupil…to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.” A deputation of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, headed by Sydney Walt, brought the matter to the attention of S. Theron, Director of Education of the Cape Province.

They pointed out that the new approach to religious instruction “presents a serious problem in regard to Jewish children being exposed to such instruction.” They noted that” teaching of this nature, however satisfactory from a Christian point of view, could not be acceptable to an adherent of Judaism.” The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that the deputation was received sympathetically. The Board said it felt it was its duty to inform Jewish parents of the new syllabus and advise them to invoke their legal right to request that their children be excused. Theron said he saw no objection to the Board acting accordingly. The South African Jewish Times, a Jewish community newspaper, applauded the Board’s initiative. The paper said editorially, “It follows that no Jew who respects his history and faith can allow his children to be placed in the new situation”…(which)…”at best must confuse their young minds and at worst erode their Judaism.”

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