Stamford Hill rabbi defends Holocaust references at Schools Bill protest

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Stamford Hill rabbi defends Holocaust references at Schools Bill protest

Hundreds from Stamford Hill's Charedi community are expected to join Wednesday's protest in Parliament Square over proposed regulation of yeshivot in the government's Schools Bill

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Rabbi Asher Gratt
Rabbi Asher Gratt

A leading Stamford Hill rabbi has defended the decision to link a protest against the government’s Schools Bill with references to the Holocaust, claiming survivors are “scared and intimidated” by the plans to regulate yeshivot.

Hundreds of protesters from the Charedi community are expected to attend a protest in Parliament Square on Wednesday, which has been organised by group who include the influential Rabbi Asher Gratt.

The demo has been organised under the banner of “Holocaust Survivors Stand Up Against Discriminatory Schools Bill.”

During the protest, Rabbi Gratt and other speakers will make reference to the fact that amongst those in attendance at the demo are a number of Shoah survivors, who wish to be make their objection to the Schools Bill 2022 known.

The Bill will close a loophole which exists at the moment allowing yeshivot to teach a narrow religious curriculum because they do not count as schools under the present definition of the law.

As a result, they are exempt from registration with the Department of Education and they are not subject to Ofsted visits.

Rabbi Gratt, previously involved in the successful campaign against North London coroner Mary Hassell to ditch her “unlawful” cab-rank approach, told Jewish News on Tuesday that he believed the government’s Bill was “anti-religion” rather than being antisemitic.

He stressed that his entire extended family, along with himself had all been educated at Charedi schools, and many of his relatives were now very successful in their lives.

Asked why Wednesday’s protest would take place with the claim of Holocaust Survivors Stand Up Against Discriminatory Schools Bill, Rabbi Gratt said: “I have just spent two hours with one survivor, who was actually in the crematorium.

“And over the last week I have spoken to other survivors, they all feel scared and intimidated by the language the is in the Schools Bill. We have to stand up for our rights.”

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.

Gratt, along with his supporters are also behind a letter, which has been sent to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi calling for the government to give the Charedi community freedom to continue raising their children in accordance with their religious principles.

The letter asks for changes to the Schools Bill 2022, claiming it violates the rights of parents and their children to practise their religion.

In other inflammatory warnings the government’s plans for schools have been linked to an attempt to expel the Strictly Orthodox community from the UK.

Gratt’s Rabbinical Committee do not have the backing of all in the UK’s Charedi community, although nearly 2000 men packed into a meeting held in Stamford Hill to protest against the Bill earlier this month.

Other organisations, such as the Torah Education Committee, favour more conventional lobbying of ministers to raise concerns over the Bill.

Jewish News revealed earlier this month how a visit to Stamford Hill by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove saw him meet and hear concerns raised about the Schools Bill from leaders connected to the Satmar community.

Another newly emerging body is the Yeshiva Liaison Committee supported by the Union of Hebrew Congregation’s lay and rabbinical leadership.

Some Stamford Hill insiders predict that Charedi leaders will eventually be forced to compromise over the plan to regulate their schools.

“The Bill will go through, and we will have to find ways to work with it, and work around it,” said a source.

“It’s not like we are going to pick up much outside support for arguing we don’t want our schools to be open to inspection, is it?.”

Another source predicted many “more moderate” Charedi leaders would eventually accept compromises such as those which have already gone ahead in primary schools.

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