Belz schools walking back expulsion threat for children of mothers who drive


(JTA) — A letter issued by rabbis of the Belz Hasidic group in London saying that the children whose mothers drive them to school will be banned was not approved by the schools’ board of governors.

Ahron Klein, chief executive of Torah Machzikei Hadass, a boys’ primary school, and Beis Malka, a primary school for girls, both located in Stamford Hill, told the Hackney Gazette that the message of the letter written by the rabbis was not seen in advance by the board.

“The head teacher sent out the letter on behalf of the spiritual heads of the community who had not taken into account the implications of such a policy,” Klein told the newspaper. “The school believes that women have a choice about whether they want to drive or not, and our policy is to accept all children who are members of our community, which we have been doing for the last 40 years.”

Late last month, Belz rabbis in London issued a letter saying that female drivers violate “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and that children would be expelled from Belz schools if their mothers dropped them off by car beginning in August with the new school year. Many Hasidic groups in the United States also frown upon women driving.

The letter brought accusations that the Belz were “trying to turn their London community into Saudi Arabia.”

The policy of not allowing students to come to school if their mothers drive came from the Belzer rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Britain’s education secretary and minister for women and equalities, Nicky Morgan, has ordered an investigation into the possible exclusion of pupils from school.

“This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain,” she told the Hackney Gazette. “If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are breaching the independent school standards.”

Morgan added that her department would “take any necessary action to address the situation.”

Both schools have been rated “good” by Ofsted, Britain’s Office for Standards in Education.

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