SHAFAQNA – Leaders of an Orthodox sect in North London issued a directive to ban women from driving, and also banning children from school, if they are driven there by their mothers.
A letter sent to members of the Belz Hasidic Jewish sect in London last week forbid its female members from driving, as it runs counter to “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp,” and also threatened to ban children from school, whose mothers drive them there.
According to reports in the London Jewish press, from August children will be banned from attending Belz schools if they are driven there by their mothers.
The increasing number of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive,” explains the letter, has resulted in “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions,” and is the motivation for the edict.
The letter was endorsed by the sect’s rabbis and signed by leaders of Belz schools in Stamford Hill, which is home to over 20,000 Hasidic Jews, the second-largest such community in the world outside of Israel, after New York.
“The instinct behind such a draconian ban is one of power and control, of men over women,” said Dina Brawer, the UK ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, criticizing the directive.
“In this sense it is no different from the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia. That it masquerades as a halachic imperative is shameful and disturbing.”
UK Education Secretary Nicki Morgan also criticized the ban as “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,” said Morgan, whose Department for Education later confirmed it is undertaking an investigation into the directive.
The Orthodox community in Stamford Hill was the subject of media attention in September last year after posters instructing women to only walk down one side of the road appeared on streets in the area, which were then taken down by the local Hackney council after becoming the center of controversy.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the signs, which were written in both English and Yiddish, had been put up by Orthodox Jews for the Torah Procession, so that during the event men and women would not make physical contact. The event organizers, according to the spokesman, had promised to next year write them in Yiddish only to avoid “potential misinterpretation,” and to remove the signs more quickly after the parade’s end.