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Antwerp school ordered to enroll children of haredi pariah

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(JTA) — A Belgian appeals court ordered a school in Antwerp to enroll the children of Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a haredi Orthodox Jew who has been ostracized for his anti-Zionist views.

The Antwerp Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Yesode Hatora School had no grounds to refuse to enroll six of the eight children of Friedman, a New York-born anti-Zionist activist who in 2006 attended a conference of Holocaust deniers organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Tehran.

Yesode Hatora School has male and female pupils who study separately in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of Antwerp’s Orthodox Jews. The school refused to enroll the Friedman children last year.

Friedman and his family have been declared persona non grata by some institutions of Antwerp’s Orthodox community.

The school’s refusal prompted Friedman to launch a legal fight to enroll his boys at an all-girls school, a legal process that threatened the Orthodox community’s relative autonomy in education and violated the community’s principle of resolving conflicts internally without involving Belgian authorities.

Friedman registered two of his boys at the Benoth Jerusalem Public School for girls in December after obtaining an injunction from a Belgian judge. Belgian law does not allow gender-segregated schools, but in reality the practice is tolerated as long as it remains unchallenged.

The injunction has since been lifted and the boys stopped attending the girls school, but Friedman has appealed the lifting of the injunction.

He told JTA he did not intend to withdraw his appeal until after all of his children find “the adequate educational framework they deserve.”

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