Belz response on threat to driving mothers satisfies British panel

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A British government committee will not take action against the Belz Hasidic group in London for threatening to ban from its schools students whose mothers drive.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday that it has received a “satisfactory response” from the leaders of the Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass boys school and the Beis Malka girls school over the threat, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

The commission said that the schools had offered assurances that “they will not exclude or refuse admission to any child or apply any other sanction on the basis of their mother driving.”

Late last month, Belz rabbis in London issued a letter saying that female drivers violate “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and that children would be expelled from Belz schools if their mothers dropped them off by car beginning in August with the new school year. Many Hasidic groups in the United States also frown upon women driving.

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The letter brought accusations that the Belz were “trying to turn their London community into Saudi Arabia.” Britain’s education secretary and minister for women and equalities, Nicky Morgan, had ordered an investigation into the possible exclusion of pupils from school.

In response to the letter, the commission wrote to the schools to say that it would be against the law to deny children entry on such grounds, according to the Chronicle.

The policy of not allowing students to come to school if their mothers drive came from the Belzer rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Both schools have been rated “good” by Ofsted, Britain’s Office for Standards in Education.

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