U.K. Jewish Schools Remove Images Of Women From Books

| by Nik Bonopartis
An Orthodox Jewish family headed to temple on the Sabbath in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.An Orthodox Jewish family headed to temple on the Sabbath in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Kids at a pair of Orthodox Jewish schools in the U.K. are taught retrograde views about women and are discouraged from learning about wider society, British education authorities said.

The education inspectors from Ofsted -- Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills -- visited two Orthodox schools for boys in north London, according to the Guardian.

Yetev Lev, which has 794 pupils, and Beis Aharon, where 374 kids are enrolled, have similar curriculums that isolate students and make it difficult for them to integrate into and understand British society, the inspectors wrote in a report.

At Yetev Lev, inspectors found that “images of females had either been erased or radically changed” in school texts, while kids were taught “very narrow views about the role of women in society,” the Guardian reported.

School staff “refused to allow pupils to talk to the female inspectors on a formal basis," and told inspectors they had “no intention of providing pupils with experiences to enable them to acquire an appreciation of and respect for differences between people, based on culture, religion, sex and sexual orientation," the Ofsted report said.

At Beis Aharon, faculty had similarly altered textbooks to censor images of women and girls in short-sleeve shirts, as well as photos of children swimming, the Guardian reported.

In an editorial for the Jewish Chronicle, columnist Chaya Spitz said changes to Ofsted policies meant Orthodox schools "are the new pariahs."

"It looks very much like our schools have been singled out for selective enforcement," Spitz wrote, saying the "greatest angst" involved Ofsted's demands that Orthodox schools promote tolerance for homosexuality and transgender rights.

Not everyone in the Jewish community agrees.

"This is not about Judaism, this is about being stuck in the 19th century," Rabbi Charley Baginsky of Liberal Judaism said, per the Guardian. "The trouble with promoting attitudes like this is that they risk making religion irrelevant to how we live today and bringing Judaism into disrepute.”

The changes in Ofsted's rating of Orthodox Jewish schools were prompted by complaints from the British Humanist Association, which published research in 2015 showing the schools were consistently rated as "good" or "outstanding" when reviewed by Jewish Orthodox Ofsted inspectors, while they were only rated positively 22 percent of the time by other inspectors.

Members of Parliament told Ofsted to review its policies after the research was published, and after hearing testimony from a former Orthodox student who told them he could barely speak English or do simple math after graduating from an Orthodox school -- mostly because the vast majority of instruction time was dedicated to study of scripture.

Sources: The Guardian, British Humanist Association, Jewish Chronicle Online / Photo credit: Chris Ford/Flickr

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