Charedi protestors wear Nazi style yellow stars on latest anti-Schools Bill protest
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Charedi protestors wear Nazi style yellow stars on latest anti-Schools Bill protest

Speaking for the protestors, who gathered outside a conference on religious freedom in Westminster, Rabbi Asher Gratt said the yellow stars expressed 'how they feel'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Charedi protesters wearing yellow stars
Charedi protesters wearing yellow stars

Around 100 members of the UK’s Strictly Orthodox community have sparked fury and disgust after wearing yellow stars once associated with Nazi persecution of the Jews during the latest demonstration against the Government’s education reforms.

The group, linked to the Rabbinical Committee of the Traditional Charedi Education, took part in the stunt outside the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion in Westminster, at which Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were among 700 attendees.

The government’s Bill will close a loophole allowing yeshivot to teach a narrow religious curriculum because they do not count as schools under the present definition of the law.

The Charedi protesters wore large yellow stars on their jackets, in an apparent attempt to link the government’s attempt to clampdown on unregistered yeshivot with the Holocaust. Jews throughout Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear a badge in the form of a Yellow Star as a means of identification after 1938.

Rabbi Asher Gratt, a spokesman for the protesters, told Jewish News that yellow stars were worn because the Schools Bill’s impact on religious education was “equivalent to a death sentence.”

Gratt denied the stunt was attempting to suggest the British government was behaving like the Nazis with its move to clampdown on unregistered schools. He claimed the protesters were sporting yellow stars to “express how they feel”.

Former Justice Minister Lord David Wolfson reacted angrily to imagery on show at the protest.

The Conservative peer and QC said:”There are some things which are sacred and beyond politics. And the ‘yellow star’ is one of them.

“For Charedi demonstrators to appropriate this symbol is utterly disgraceful.

“They may or may not have a valid point – but using the yellow star demeans them and their argument.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told Jewish News: “It is absolutely shameful to see the yellow star used and abused in this way. Whatever your grievance, this is wrong and offensive.”

Dame Margaret Hodge, the Jewish Labour MP, added the use of the Nazi era symbols on the protest was “totally inappropriate.”

Many members of the charedi community were equally disgusted. A communal figure branded the stunt “disgusting” when shown the images of protesters by Jewish News on Wednesday.

Currently, yeshivot are not subject to Ofsted visits. More than a thousand Charedi boys aged 13 and above in Stamford Hill are estimated to be currently learning in institutions beyond the reach of state scrutiny and standards.

The government will also be given powers to suspend schools where there are serious safeguarding failures. Schools will also be instructed to teach children on LGBT issues. At an earlier protest three weeks ago, demonstrators claimed the proposal represented a direct attack on the charedi community and too away parents’ rights to freedom to practise their faith the way they wish to.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, whose authority is not recognised by the Strictly Orthodox Charedi community, had spoken at the religious freedom conference on Tuesday, which was attended by delegates from all over the globe.

They were greeted by the Charedi protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, which hosted the two day long conference.

The group said Strictly Orthodox Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, who is 101 years-old, had written to new Education Secretary Michelle Donelan on the matter, following her move into the role after Nadhim Zahawi was made chancellor.

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