A demonstration by some 100 chareidim in London has sparked outrage after they wore yellow stars reminiscent of the Nazi period persecution of Jews. The chareidim were protesting British interference in chareidi education, with the new British laws requiring all educational systems to teach subjects which are taboo in chareidi circles. A number of chareidi schools which refused to teach these issues have been forced to close in the meantime.
The protesters, who are linked to the Rabbinical Committee of the Traditional Charedi Education, took part in the demonstration 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.
Rabbi Asher Gratt, a spokesman for the protesters, told 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”.
However, many prominent British politicians and Holocaust memorial activists reacted with indignation to the yellow star stunt.
Former Justice Under-Secretary David Wolfson, a Conservative peer and an alumnus of Yeshivat Hakotel, said that:”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.”
Chareidi elements also expressed their opposition to the Neturei Karta’s tactics. Recently many chareidim have been canvassing government elements in an attempt to prevent the new regulations from applying to chareidim. According to these regulations, the government will be given powers to suspend schools where there are serious safeguarding failures. Schools will also be required to teach children on LGBTQ issues. At an earlier protest three weeks ago, demonstrators claimed the proposal represented a direct attack on the charedi community and took away parents’ rights to freedom to practise their faith the way they wish to.
Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, who is 101 years-old and the oldest rosh yeshiva in Europe, wrote to new Education Secretary Michelle Donelan on the matter, following her move into the role after Nadhim Zahawi was made chancellor. Schlesinger wrote that the new directives would have a “significant negative influence on religious education.”