Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · news

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Jew

What if the United States government decided who is and isn’t Jewish. 

Now substitute the United States for that of Britain, the land of Harry Potter, because that’s what has people thinking about the “Who is a Jew” controversy in a whole new light ever since the son (now dubbed the “half-blood Jew”) of a non-Orthodox convert was turned away from an Orthodox day school there. A British court ruled that this was racist and based on that has changed the admissions policy for Jewish schools.
Was it racist? Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is calling the court racist for calling Judaism racist. Or is it chutzpah for this family to go to court against an Orthodox Jewish day school’s admission policy when the mother did not have a Orthodox conversion?

I’ve hesitated to weigh in on this one because the “Who is a Jew” debate can get some pretty explosive. I know I’m wondering, as always, if some day I’ll have to worry about my (currently only imaginary) children getting into a day school or yeshiva because someone thinks my Orthodox conversion isn’t legitimate enough. 
But Anshel Pfeffer is wondering “What are Jewish schools for?” anyway?
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7 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Jew

  1. That can be a great danger of what is called positive freedom.

    Whether one disagrees with the school, they have a right to who they admit, and to deal with whatever negative publicity they get for that choice.

    Racist accusations are a stigma akin to Communism in the 50s, and it is used without thought as this has nothing to do with race, but religion.

    I also imagine if some day school wants to give you crap about your conversion, you can tell them what body parts they can kiss as they just lost the king's ransom they could charge you.

    In the US, it would probably not be constitutional for a Court to rule on a private school's admissions policy

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  2. I can't speak for these parents, but I can think of one reason non-Orthodox parents would be interested in sending their kids to an Orthodox day school. I've heard a lot of people – including people who aren't Orthodox – say Orthodox schools do a much better job of teaching Hebrew literacy and how to read and interpret and just generally engage with source material, while they complain that Reform and Conservative education dumbs things down too much and is boring for smart kids. So if they want their kid to have good Hebrew literacy and good exposure to the actual Tanakh and Talmud so that he can be an engaged, informed Jew who makes his own decisions – maybe they thought this was the best school for their kid.

    Personally, I probably would not send my kid to an Orthodox school. I'm the daughter of a non-Orthodox convert, and I don't practice Orthodox. I wouldn't want my kid to go somewhere where he would be treated as a second class student because of his background. Also, I generally believe in public schooling. But the supposed rigorousness does appeal to me.

    The Orthodox schools in the community I live in now (not New York or LA) say they accept students from all Jewish backgrounds. I sometimes wonder whether that would include my kid because by their standards I'm not even Jewish.

    All that said, I wouldn't sue over it, and in the U.S., no, the courts would have no jurisdiction over private schools. I'm under the impression these schools get some public funding in Britain, but I'm not clear on that.

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  3. Currently, the US Gov't only decides who is a Native American Indian. We still don't know why they think they have the right to decide that for us.

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  4. non_o jew, you better not be talking about frummie schools in NY. This is the kind of education you can expect in NY, especially in Brooklyn.

    We have to apply for next year and have no idea where to go. Most frummie schools have really bad secular education and are gonna give us attitude for being BT. MO schools have better secular education but are more expensive and the kids there are snobby. Though frummie schools also have snobby kids I guess.

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