Hasmonean High School in Hendon, a London suburb in the Borough of Barnet, has been ordered to change its admission rules which included a section that required a rabbi to confirm that a student’s family had met three of five requirements in the past year, including observing the “laws of family purity,” Schools Week reported Thursday.
Hasmonean is a secondary school for students from Orthodox Jewish families. It was founded by the late Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld in 1944, in response to the need for an Orthodox Jewish school in North West London, which was home to a large population of Orthodox Jews after WW2, but did not have a religious school to cater for them.
The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) upheld a complaint from parents, on the grounds that the requirement did not meet the school admissions code regarding “fair, clear and objective criteria.” The OSA ruled that the inquiry could be “embarrassing or intrusive” for some parents.
The five questions listed by the school “in order to meet the faith practice requirement within the admissions arrangements of Hashomrim High School” are:
1. Does your family eat away from home in establishments certified as kosher by a recognized kashrut authority?
2. Does you family observe the laws of family purity?
3. Does your family commit time where possible to Torah study as required by Jewish law?
4. Does your family commit time to communal prayer where possible and/or individual prayer in accordance with Jewish law?
5. Does your family look for Rabbinic guidance with regards to Halachic queries?
The OSA adjudicator concluded that it “would not be possible to objectively assess whether or not a family observes the laws of family purity.” The complaint had been about the school’s requirement that a rabbi complete the form confirming a family’s observance, despite the fact a family might not know the rabbi in question.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, welcomed the OSA decision, and said school should be about “children and developing their education”, and not “checking up on the religious observances” of parents. The Accord Coalition website states: “We campaign to make admissions and recruitment policies in all state-funded schools free from discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.”
A Hasmonean spokesperson told Schools Week: “We are reviewing and updating our admissions policies to ensure that we abide by the current regulations governing admissions, that our school’s ethos is upheld and that we reflect the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community.”
The OSA’s new ruling comes after the agency had ordered the Rimon Jewish primary school in Golders Green, north London, to drop admissions rules giving preferential treatment to members of some synagogues; and warned the Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School in Barnet, north London, give priority in admission to children of staff who did not measure up to the school ‘s standards of religious practice, Schools Week reported.