JOHANNESBURG (May. 24)
A new doctrinal emphasis in scriptural studies in South Africa’s state-run schools is causing serious concern in the Jewish community. The Congress of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies which met last week-end, instructed the Board’s executive council to give the matter urgent consideration and work toward a unified position “to protect and advance the interests of Jewish parents, pupils and teachers.”
Bible studies have always been part of the South African school curriculum. In the past it was broad in character and, while including the New as well as the Old Testament, was not doctrinal. New regulations, however, specify that religious instruction in State schools shall be “Christocentric” and directed, among other things, “to prepare the pupil, through his knowledge of the Bible, to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.”
JEWISH COMMUNITY ADVERSELY AFFECTED
Delegates to the Congress stressed that such instruction was clearly unacceptable to Jews and recalled a provision of the Education Ordinance which states that “no pupil shall be required to be present at the giving of religious instruction, if the parent of such pupil expresses in writing any conscientious objections to such instruction.”
In Cape Province the Cape Council of the Board of Jewish Deputies has urged Jewish parents to exercise their right by withdrawing their children from religious instruction classes. In other provinces the position is still under study. The Congress issued a statement acknowledging the State’s desire to strengthen the religious spirit in education but expressed “concern at the possibility of the Jewish community being adversely affected” by the new regulations.
The statement said the Congress “trusts that the rights and opportunities of members of the Jewish faith, for training, appointment and advancement in the education system will be fully safeguarded.”