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Thursday, June 04, 2015 

Haredi sect in England bans women from driving

The Belz tribe in London's announced it opposes women driving cars, and will expel children of mothers who dare to violate their ruling. There's been outrage voiced over this, including from the education department:
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has labelled a Jewish community’s decision to ban women driving “completely unacceptable”.

Leaders of the north-west London Belz sect, part of an ultra-orthodox branch of Haredi Judaism, reportedly sent a letter telling parents their children would be prevented from attending school should their mothers’ drive.

The letter, seen by the Jewish Chronicle, claimed that female drivers were “contrary to the rules of religious modesty” and warned that from August children at the school in Stamford Hill would be turned away if their mothers violated the policy.

Ms Morgan, also minister for women and equalities, said of the notice: “This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain.

"If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people they are breaching the independent school standards,” she said in a statement to the Guardian.
What makes this particularly shameful is how it takes away attention from Islamists who can do the same, and makes followers of Haredi Judaism look like they're trying to outdo the Muslims in specific areas by going farther in some of their customs. And for that, they deserve to have any funding given to their schools revoked by the government. I'd suggest any parents who don't approve homeschool their children instead...but I've got a feeling the Belz leaders would probably frown upon homeschooling too, since it would undermine their socialist structure. The UK Telegraph has the following reaction from the Orthodox Feminist Alliance:
Women's groups in the community have responded with anger - comparing the practice to Saudi Arabia where women are banned from driving.

Dina Brawer, the UK Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, translated the letter which was written in Hebrew for the Telegraph.

She said: "This draconian ban simply reflects the fear of a rapidly changing social reality that threatens some of the Ultra Orthodox leaders.

"They are desperately trying to hold on to a patriarchal hierarchy that is out of step with the twenty first century."

Ms Brawer added: "The ban has no grounding in Jewish law or practice whatsoever. It is simply about power and control."
Exactly. After all, biblical Deborah was a judge, one who probably rode horses to attend many of her meetings and cases, and something tells me prominent biblical women aren't held in high regard by these isolationist Haredis. Here's more from Brawer:
[...] I feel strongly about speaking out on this issue for a number of reasons.

Firstly, and most obviously, the ban violates women’s freedom.

At its most basic level, this move impedes the free movement of women, and cripples their independence. To ban women from driving is to control when, where and how they can travel, and limit their ability to move as autonomous, free individuals.

Moreover, as a strictly Orthodox and fully observant Jewish woman I am indignant at the misrepresentation of Orthodox Judaism.

This measure is absolutely unheard of in Judaism, having no basis whatsoever in any Jewish text. The idea that it is immodest for a woman to drive is completely alien to Judaism, and is more characteristic of Saudi Arabia than London.

The motivation for such a ban is not piety, but plain sexism - and a rather sinister desire of men to exert control over women.

The ban also brought to light a worrying set of priorities within the Belz sect.

The fact that children were threatened with exclusion from school, if their mothers drove them there, is enormously disturbing.

It says that in the Belz sect, the value of a child’s education is secondary to the perceived value of women behaving ‘modestly’. This too is in total opposition to Jewish values, which emphasise that the first duty of a parent is to ensure the quality of their child’s schooling.
It's clear the Belz don't put much true value on a child's educational upbringing. Otherwise, they wouldn't be so hell-bent on giving the children in their care such extremely limited subjects, and leaving out math, learning to write in English and other languages, and science.

But wait, there's more, and it gets worse:
Reacting to the intense media interest in this story, a group of women within the sect identified as N'shei Belz put out a statement saying:

"As Orthodox Jewish women belonging to the Belz community in London, we feel extremely valued belonging to a community where the highest standards of refinement morality and dignity are respected.

"We happen to believe that driving is a high-pressured activity where our values maybe compromised by exposure to selfishness, road-rage, bad language and other inappropriate behaviour.

"However, we respect that there are many who conduct lifestyles that are different to ours and we do not in any way disrespect them or the decisions they have made."

Their justification for this ban is even more embarrassing than the ban itself.

The notion that drivers, as opposed to pedestrians, are any more susceptible to losing their temper, behaving selfishly or using bad language is absurd.
It most definitely is. I wouldn't be surprised if these women were acting at the behest of the male overlords. It's plain shameful.

Update: the Belz tribe supposedly backed off of the ban. However, there's reason to believe they might not have:
The letter said the ban was based on the recommendations of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Belzer spiritual leader in Israel.

But now Ahron Klein, chief executive of the schools, has said the ban was made without approval of the governors and that mothers would be able to drive to their children to the two schools.
This obscures the fact that many of these Haredi schools are governed by the spiritual leaders themselves, so what does their current response really mean? Not much at all, I'm afraid.

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