Unregulated Jewish faith schools constricting the lives of thousands of London boys

January 19, 2016 • 2:00 pm

Muslims have their madrassas and Jews have their yeshivas. The problems come when these religious schools—schools that teach only religion—are used as substitutes for the broader education required by most Western countries. Sadly, that is happening with both Jews and Muslims in Britain, according to new articles in East London Lines (ELL), in The Guardian, and in The Independent. These pieces concentrate on the problem with Jewish schools, and mention that the religious-education issue certainly extends to some Muslim schools.

But the evidence we have is for Jewish schools. Apparently these include both secret “unregistered” schools as well as schools that have applied for legal status, but which have been rejected on the ground of their hyper-religious education. One of the latter includes the Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar School in Stamford Hill (an area of London), which has just been ordered to close in February. Why? Because its 200 pupils, who attend only that school (students are between ages 3 and 13), are taught exclusively in Hebrew and have no subjects other than religion and a bit of mathematics. Some of the graduates, even in their late teens, can barely speak English!

Between 2012 and 2014, the school was inspected three times, failing every time. And yet it was permitted to operate—because of excessive respect for religion combined with some bigotry. From the ELL:

Campaigns manager Stephen Evans [from the National Secular Society] claimed that a desire not to upset religious sensitivities had led to a ‘softly-softly’ approach. He told Eastlondonlines: ”The lack of political will to make progress has been down to what I’ve previously called a ‘bigotry of low expectations’ – the mindset that says children from certain backgrounds are less entitled to a proper education than others. I hope we’re starting to see this change, nurturing integration rather than promoting segregation and social isolation.”

This kind of religious instruction, of course, not on propagandizes the children and basically forces them into a lifelong religious path, but constricts them and balkanizes them with respect to other children.

The Independent quotes the government inspectors’ conclusions:

Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.

The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”.

But it gets worse. After 13, the age of bar mitzvah, these children are then shunted into completely secret yeshivas to continue their education—again, a wholly religious one. The Guardian gives data from one London borough:

According to the DfE’s 2012 briefing note, there are 800-1,000 Orthodox Jewish boys between the ages of 13 and 16 missing from the school system in the London borough of Hackney. And while this is the UK’s biggest Hassidic community, it is likely that similar situations exist in other areas where smaller groups live, including Salford and Gateshead.

Apparently these unregistered yeshivas are known to the British Government, but the authorities are slow to take action.

We tend to think mostly of Islam as the faith whose children are kept isolated from the greater society of Western countries—and the problem with secret madrassas in England has yet to be addressed—but the isolation is at least as bad for these Orthodox Jews. If you know anything about that way of life, you’ll know how dreadfully oppressive it is. And the children shunted into these faith schools have no choice. They will wind up as bearded and black-garbed promoters of superstition, and will force their wives and daughters into an equally constricting but even more submissive way of life.

It’s time for Britain to stop osculating the rump of faith, crack down on these reprehensible substitutes for “education,” and get rid of faith schools entirely.

h/t: Grania


53 thoughts on “Unregulated Jewish faith schools constricting the lives of thousands of London boys

    1. Its a qualitatively different situation though, because these are schools the state is regulating and supposed to be inspecting etc. The State should not be osculating the rump of faith as a matter of public policy and fairness…parents can legally osculate the rump of faith all they want.

      1. Somehow I find the thought of parents abusing their own children instead of being forced by a tight knit community worse.

        Oh I guess all home schooled aren’t educationally abused. But there is that unnecessary lack of oversight.

  1. Mind control. Child abuse. These schools have been brought to public attention on London TV as well. It’s an outrage, and for the life of me I can’t understand why guilty men aren’t standing disgraced in court.

  2. There are Jewish religious schools just like this in New York City and suburbs and have been for over 40 years.

  3. As an Israeli secular Jew, I can only sorrowfully concur.
    Here in Israel this scandalous, bigoted, science denying curriculum is not only tolerated it is STATE FUNDED, allowing all of the Jewish ultra-orthodox population, over 10% of the Jewish population to be educated exclusively in the Talmudic worldview: A 1500 year-old, Jewish-supremacist, science-denying worldview that denounces democracy, pluralism, and women’s rights. And the “just orthodox” Jewish schools and the Arab-
    Israeli schools, also state funded, are no better.
    Unfortunately here in Israel “freedom of religion” still means “freedom of millenia-old bigotry”.

    1. What gets taught in the Arab-Israeli schools? I presume it’s not Orthodox Judaism.

      While on the topic of Arab-Israelis, can anyone recommend some sources of information about this community? I am curious to know how they are regarded within the wider Israeli and Palestinian societies, if they share they same political and religious views as the Palstinians in Gaza and the West Bank and how they interact with their Jewish neighbours.

      1. Israeli schools are secular, the religious go to Yeshivas. Arab and Jewish schools adhere to the same curriculum.

        Re: the rest of your question far too complex to respond to in a quote but the myriad. You have the Islamic Movement who are basically Muslim Brotherhood and regard themselves as either Palestinians or part of the ummah to Arabs who regard themselves as Israeli.

        There is only one legal distinction – Arabs are not forced to join the army where Jews are though they can conscript and many do.

        “Sleeping On A Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel” by the wonderful writer David Grossman is a good starting point. Also TV show Avodah Aravit (Arab Labour) is a bit like an Arab Israeli Curb Your Enthusiasm and is bloody hilarious and a huge hit. It’s on some American networks and websites with subtitles and you can get the DVD. A few episodes of that and you’ll get a good idea of the complex interplay between the 2 peoples. Watch here: http://www.kcet.org/video/arablabor/

        1. Thank you. I’d expect the average secular Israeli school to be rather good, given the intellectual, industrial & agricultural achievements of Israel. Guy, can you explain more what you meant by “And the “just orthodox” Jewish schools and the Arab-Israeli schools, also state funded, are no better”?

      2. Depends who you are asking. Liberal answer secular Jewish are often at odds with these guys in Israel.

  4. The inspectors report that the schools “severely restrict the spiritual[…] development of pupils”. Spiritual? Government theologizing here? “You’re doing Jewishness wrong!”
    Hope the crackdown is successful. Needed in the US as well. Haven’t the Hasidic Jews taken over an entire school district in NY?

  5. its 200 pupils, who attend only that school (students are between ages 3 and 13), are taught exclusively in Hebrew and have no subjects other than religion and a bit of mathematics. Some of the graduates, even in their late teens, can barely speak English!

    Here we would maybe call it “Hebrew immersion.” I have no problem with a school that does it’s teaching entirely in a different language…so long as it meets state curriculum standards. The key point in this case is not that they do the teaching in Hebrew, but that it doesn’t meet curriculum standards.

    Campaigns manager Stephen Evans [from the National Secular Society] claimed that a desire not to upset religious sensitivities had led to a ‘softly-softly’ approach

    I really fail to see how telling a Principal that their school doesn’t pass inspection is a religious sensitivity issue. You’re not saying their faith is wrong, you are telling them the State’s legal requirements and what they don’t meet. If they want to complain that the requirements are unfair, they can take it up with the state. The guy doing the evaluation didn’t decide that English and History were required subjects, the state did.

  6. And we think kids are getting a poor education in public schools in the U.S. They are but not nearly as bad as this. Talk about going to school and getting nothing useful out of it.

  7. How long are we supposed to ignore child abuse int he name of “respecting” people’s “beliefs”?

  8. As someone who worked with the Haredim in Stamford Hill (I’m not Jewish but speak Hebrew and used to sell educational books to their schools) it’s not Hebrew they study in but Yiddish. Hebrew is strictly liturgical for the more fringe, and especially anti-zionist haredim. Approx half of the sects in the area are anti-Zionist.

    Some of the more mainstream Chabad schools have to go by the curriculum but the bare minimum. Funnily enough girls have a much better secular education and tend do well academically.

    There are plenty of young men who can barely speak English. Even my old friend Rav Herschel Gluck (who people may remember from Richard Dawkins ‘Root of all Evil’ program and who is a really nice bloke) who was the shaliach, or emissary, to goyim was born and bred 60+ years ago in London and his accent is straight out of the sthetl.

    1. I am unsure if your observation about girls brought up in ultra-orthodox homes have it any better – this is an interesting book http://www.amazon.com/Educated-Ignorant-Ultraorthodox-Jewish-Women/dp/1555873960

      Educated and Ignorant: Ultraorthodox Jewish Women and Their World.

      The author, Tamar El-Or, discusses how girls are brain-washed into being obedient and subservient. The girls are taught to be ignorant and fearful of anything that is ‘outside’.

      1. Interestingly, many of the articles about NY yeshivas also mention that the girls get a better secular education than the boys. (I just got caught up in a Google search of such articles.)

        Perhaps the girls need the better secular education to manage all the interactions with the outside world a family might need–shopping, etc., as wives–while the boys/men are supposed to just spend their days studying the Torah…

        1. You are spot on Diane. Also many of the girls at Beis Malka school spoke English with an English accent unlike a lot of the boys at neighbouring schools

      2. Firstly this might be American and secondly of course I was being anecdotal but GCSE results for the girl’s schools in the area were above average. Also some of the secular literature they read was surprisingly mainstream. Boys used to come in and sneakily look at the adult section (not porn but erotic lit). Hard to be subtle in all their garb though!

  9. Re child abuse, here is an update on the child who cut his hand of when accused of blasphemy: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35341256

    “Qaiser [not the real name] is the youngest of five children and the first to continue his school studies into his mid-teens. He had always been known for his strong religious convictions.”

    “While Qaiser was having his wounds dressed in a poorly-equipped clinic, his father told us: “I hardly make ends meet.”

    Breaking down, he added: “I don’t even have money to pay the nurse. I also want a new hand for my son. My only solace is that he did for the Prophet.”

    The cleric has been arrested under anti-terrorism laws, and denies charges of inciting hatred and violence. But the family does not want the cleric to be punished.

    That Qaiser punished himself so severely after being accused of blasphemy is unprecedented in Pakistan. But some say he may have been spared a worse fate in an increasingly conservative country, where people accused of blasphemy, or those who defend them, can end up victims of mob violence and lynching.”

    1. I can think of a dozen sarcastic comments, and not one charitable one. So I’ll skip them.

      There is one ray of light – “The cleric has been arrested under anti-terrorism laws, and denies charges of inciting hatred and violence.” It suggests that the Pakistani authorities have not completely lost their senses.


    2. “Some say he may have been spared a worse fate…”
      Religious fanaticism has put this boy in a situation usually reserved for trapped animals, to regain life and freedom at the price of a lost limb!

  10. This is a scandal, but as awful as it is – imagine what the girls from the same family go through. Do we even know what happens to them? My suspicion, from what I have researched on ultra-orthodox judaism (why don’t we call this radicalized judaism?) is that the girls are pretty much brought up to breed. Check this article out as wellhttp://bigstory.ap.org/article/b1013fe937814697a766af4714a96ad6/israel-former-ultra-orthodox-jews-demand-basic-education and from that article:

    Experts [in Israel] have long warned that a separate education system and the absence of the ultra-Orthodox in the workforce threaten Israel’s long-term economic prospects.

    “If we’ll leave the situation as it is, when these people are not being educated, they are not contributing enough to Israeli security and to Israeli society, and to Israeli economy, we are facing quite a problem in the near future,” said Yedidia Stern, an expert on religion and state at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank. He called the plight of the former ultra-Orthodox a “tragedy,” saying they are forced to start their lives “not from zero but from minus.”

    Ultra-Orthodox leaders say any changes to the inward-looking education system would threaten a centuries-old way of life and disrupt a tradition that has served as the very bedrock of Judaism for thousands of years. Ultra-Orthodox legislators declined to comment.

    I doubt if the uneducated ultra-orthodox children will hamper the British economic situation – BUT it seems so immoral to deny children knowledge of the world. What a terrible system. There are lots of ‘centuries-old way of life’ such as slavery, the subjugation of women, war, ignorance of medical care…. but this is something far too many people wish to embrace. It boggles the mind. If it were not for the fact that the children have no choice, I’d say let them insulate themselves as much as possible…. and stay far away from us.

      1. It isn’t relevant. KD was trying a diversionary tactic. “Look, Muslims!”.

        These closed-society religions are just plain evil, whether they’re ultra-orthodox Jewish, Islamic or Xtian fundamentalist. The more closed, the more evil they are, IMO.

        I can’t see any practical difference between them and religious cults. The brainwashing techniques are the same – obey the leaders, distrust outsiders, have as little contact with the outside world as possible.


        1. (I hasten to add, the only Muslims I’ve known at all well – two lots of tenants, one Bosnian and one Pakistani – were totally unlike the above. Perfectly sociable. And there were quite a lot of people at work who might have been muslims but there was no way to tell. Same goes for Jews Christians and Hindus, of course).


  11. Honestly, seculars are incapable of replacement fertility over any extended period of time, so they end up importing highly religious people to maintain the workforce and the state social insurance. Further, if you bring in religious immigrants and secularize them, you just kick the demographic can down the road a generation.

    It would make more sense to decide which kind of ultrafundamentalist group capable of doubling its population in 20 years that you want, and bring in only that group, and make sure you only seduce of few of them into secular ways, thereby leaving a viable breeding population.

    Israel has a heads up on this reality over the EU or America, although they are going to have to get the Haredim off the dole and in the IDF. As it is, the UK is going to be like Syria in 100 years, with the Haredim, Salifist Muslims, Christian fundamentalsts, etc.

    1. “…seculars are incapable of replacement fertility…”

      If religion was a heritable trait this might be relevant.

    2. I guess that Israeli statesmen, when letting Haredim out of conscription service and tolerating their “schools”, may have some consideration of this sort in mind.

    3. “It would make more sense to decide which kind of ultrafundamentalist group capable of doubling its population in 20 years that you want,”


      Bloody hell.

      We don’t want (or need) *any* of them!


  12. The fact that some of these “faith schools” are knowingly operating illegally under UK law says much about the addled mindset of the fanatics wanting to pick what laws to obey. Unless they actually believe that they can live without secular law, in which case they are simply mad.

  13. They should be just closed down – and the parents fined heavily and the school closed if they set up another such school after closing. They are using the national services but actively living against the broader community

  14. Although of course politically unthinkable, anyone serious about equal opportunity and meritocracy has to consider whether any private education, let alone religious schools is supportable, excepting special-needs children.

  15. The Government are hogtied by Political Correctness in all its demented glory.
    My son who is an Athiest was told that to get my Grandson into the Secondary School of their choice He would have to attend Religious Services once a week and sign in to prove his attendance, for a total of two Years, now that is Blackmail in anyones language,as a consequence my Grandson will be attending a Public School “Private paid Education” nearby. Religious Schools are anathema to a sound Education, teaching as they do Fairy Tales as Fact.

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