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MP Robert Halfon, the Jewish chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, defended London’s Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School in a live-streamed parliamentary exchange with Ofsted head Amanda Spielman last week.

Discussing a 2018 Ofsted report in which the school was criticized for blanking out a picture of Queen Elizabeth I dancing with Robert Dudley, Halfon said the picture had only been censored because it was “immodest.”


Spielman had claimed that the school was airbrushing “women out of history, including Elizabeth I.” Halfon responded that the school “feel[s] that accusation was incredibly untrue.”

He said, “There were many other pictures of the queen and other female leaders, and the picture was only blacked out to enable the school to teach about Queen Elizabeth I…. Therefore, rather than airbrushing women, they were doing quite the opposite.

“The feeling out there from the faith community is…that you are sometimes misrepresenting what they are doing, as that example shows, and going in with a very heavy hand without any understanding of the needs and beliefs of these faith communities.”

He urged Spielman to “open up a dialogue with the school.”

After vigorously standing by Ofsted’s original comments, Spielman eventually agreed to have “further conversation” with the school.

Chinuch UK chairman David Landau told The Jewish Press, “I would have liked Mrs. Spielman to have responded very differently – to say, ‘Why don’t we revisit it? It was some time ago’ – instead of just belligerently going on and on, saying the school was wrong. It was only when she was pushed that she said she would speak to the school.”


Chief Rabbi Opines On Kaddish Recitals And Unlawful Weddings

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is resisting a call by some rabbis for Kaddish to be said as part of Zoom services during the coronavirus lockdown.

Rabbi Mirvis, who is himself in mourning for his father, suggested instead that a memorial hazkarah could be said with the name of the departed.

The chief rabbi has also recently called well-attended charedi weddings and minyanim “indefensible and disgraceful.”

He said, “When a group of people gather together in a quorum to perform a mitzvah such as the celebration of a wedding or the staging of a tefillah service in a minyan and it is a breach of the law, they are endangering their lives…the lives of others, and they are causing a terrible chillul Hashem.”


Rabbi Permits Smartphones For Education

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, senior rabbi of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, has allowed schools to use kosher phones to provide home schooling for their pupils during the lockdown.

But Rabbi Padwa warned against the “minefield” of smartphones and urged congregants not to relax restrictions on the Internet during the current crisis.


Burials Of British Jews In Israel Have Quintupled

There has been a five-fold increase in the number of British Jews being buried in Israel during the current pandemic, according to travel agents Ben Adler and Daniel Feld.

They told the Jewish News, “We in the UK are fortunate that there is a nightly cargo flight from Heathrow [London]. This has been a great help in mitigating the extra costs that could have been incurred if we had to charter flights for this purpose.”

Relatives are not allowed to travel with the bodies, which are transported in compliance with British and Israeli infection control regulations.

So far, 370 Jews have died after contracting the novel coronavirus.


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Doreen Wachmann served as a senior reporter and columnist for Britain’s Jewish Telegraph newspaper for more than 20 years.