By many standards, the JFS applicant, identified in court papers as “M,” is Jewish. But not in the eyes of the school, which defines Judaism under the Orthodox definition set out by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Because M’s mother converted in a progressive, not an Orthodox, synagogue, the school said, she was not a Jew — nor was her son. It turned down his application.
In an explosive decision, the court concluded that basing school admissions on a classic test of Judaism — whether one’s mother is Jewish — was by definition discriminatory. Whether the rationale was “benign or malignant, theological or supremacist,” the court wrote, “makes it no less and no more unlawful.”
The case rested on whether the school’s test of Jewishness was based on religion, which would be legal, or on race or ethnicity, which would not. The court ruled that it was an ethnic test because it concerned the status of M’s mother rather than whether M considered himself Jewish and practiced Judaism.
“The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,” the court said. It added that while it was fair that Jewish schools should give preference to Jewish children, the admissions criteria must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined.”
Now let’s pretend you have an IQ above 100 and are therefore not qualified to be a British judge.
The Court of Appeal decided that the Orthodox Jews’ Free School was engaging in racial discrimination because it required an conversion under Orthodox, rather than Reform auspices. In fact the Jews’ Free School was applying a religious test, rather than a racial one. Had they rejected a child because of a non-Jewish mother, that would have been a racial test. Instead they rejected the child because of a religious test. From a racial standpoint, the mother remains the same ethnicity and race that she did regardless of what conversion she undergoes. Her DNA does not change.
What this decision does though is nullify any conversion requirement, Orthodox or Reform or anything period. Which allows a British court to dictate the definition of Judaism by declaring its requirements for admission to be racist, something they have no right to do.
Now if Israel were to declare that the Catholic Church’s requirements for accepting Communion are discriminatory, there would be natural outrage. But now that the British Court of Appeals has decided what Judaism should be like, they can create their own version of Judaism.