Belgium Clamps Down on Jewish School over Sex Education

The department of education of the Flanders region in Belgium has clamped down on a Jewish primary school in Antwerp, withdrawing its subsidies and its licence to deliver certificates of education to its pupils. What had the school done wrong? Was it failing to teach the kids how to read and write or do arithmetic? Was it lack of discipline, or substandard hygiene, or were there indications of child abuse?

None of these. On the contrary, in addition to the official school programme the Bais Rachel School offers ten extra hours of religious teaching every week. Some of these classes are given as a form of Sunday school, and they are not subsidised by the state. The school, however, has failed to meet some of the targets set by the government to determine whether pupils are being given adequate preparation for further education and their role in society. The school has been judged wanting because it did not encourage its pupils to watch television or listen to contemporary music, it did not take them on outings to museums, and worst of all, it was not giving its pupils sex education along the lines set down by the government.

Bais Rachel is one of 10 Jewish primary schools in Antwerp, home to a significant population of Jews associated chiefly with the diamond trade. Along with London and New York, Antwerp has for many generations had a community of Orthodox Jews. Bais Rachel is a girls’school with two hundred pupils. Pinchas Kornfeld, who advises the school in its negotiations with the government, states that the school aims to educate its pupils in accordance with the writings of the Torah. The emphasis there is on modesty. The department of education, however, requires that by the age of eleven the pupils must know “the functions of the major organs involved in the human life processes” and must be able to “recognize as normal aspects of their development the bodily changes which they observe in themselves and their peers.”

Scathingly Ward Verhaeghe, the spokesman for the Minister of Education, the socialist Frank Vandenbroucke, remarks that “apparently that school has difficulties explaining to girls what happens to boys and what they look like.” Jenta Kohn, the school’s deputy headmistress, says:
“We are not unwilling to comply, but our religion forbids us to talk about sex in public. That does not mean that our children are ignorant. Sex education is the parents’ responsibility and Jewish parents take that responsibility seriously. Our pupils do not have sexual problems.”
In another Jewish primary school the headmaster asked Jewish doctors to provide appropriate sex education. “They know our culture and they know what approach is in accordance with our religious teaching. Our staff are not all Jewish. If we leave sex education to them we risk getting complaints from the parents.” He points out that sex education is a sensitive issue in many other schools, both Catholic and community schools.

According to the Education Ministry, however, Bais Rachel also fails to meet other targets. “The school refuses to use television, though the government requires that pupils can interpret informative texts on radio or television,”says Roger Peeters, the general inspector for primary education. Jenta Kohn motivates the decision not to introduce television into the school: “Television also goes against religion, all rabbis agree on that. The same applies to other things that can adversely affect children’s upbringing.” The school is also being accused of not devoting sufficient attention to differences between cultures and people. “There is insufficient emphasis on the fact that other convictions and lifestyles are possible,” the inspectors say.

Many in Belgium’s conformist society react by ridiculing the school’s attitude. The issues, however, go deeper than the question of what should be taught and how. The department of education’s insistence on lifestyle and attitudinal targets is a blatant denial of religious freedom and the freedom of parents and schools to educate their children in accordance with their own values and convictions.

Hostility to religion has for decades characterised the official approach to education in Belgium, and schools such as Bais Rachel that take religion seriously are now under full attack. The clampdown on Jewish schools is also indicative of an increasingly explicit hostility to Jews on the part of the authorities and the media. This is all the more alarming as those who now sanction anti-Jewish attitudes are the very same who for decades have enforced politically correct thinking whilst freely labelling anyone who dared to disagree as racist.

Five other primary schools in Antwerp have been criticised for the same reasons as Bais Rachel. They, too, are in danger of losing their subsidies and the right to deliver certificates guaranteeing their pupils entry into secondary school. Without subsidies schools in Belgium cannot attract teachers as these prefer to work as civil servants, with tenure and guaranteed pensions, paid maternity leave and all the benefits of the welfare state. Without state-approved certificates the pupils are refused admission to the schools where they would like to continue their education. Entering university is also impossible without a government-approved certificate of secondary education.

Nine out of ten Jewish children in Antwerp go to Jewish schools. Some of these are private. In addition 34 primary schools and 43 secondary schools teach Jewish religion. All over Europe governments are increasingly interfering in education, infringing on the rights of parents. Five weeks ago a German court ruled on the basis of a law introduced by the Nazis in 1938 that two homeschooling Baptist couples lose their parental authority over their own children in educational matters.

The policy is extremely

The policy is extremely ridiculous i personally don't have a problem with sex education being taught considering how many kids are having sex regardless of what people want to believe tech or preach. They are doing it and it needs to be addressed. A friend of mine in the UK has said his child's school had a london escort come in to lecture them about safe sex most parents were perfectly fine with it.

Jewish schools targeted

While it is true that the rules apply to all Belgian schools, it is also true that Jewish schools have been targeted. It is not the norm for a Belgian school to receive inspection every year, as the Jewish schools have had these past few years. Some Belgian schools are only inspected once every 10 years!

I would like to add that despite the withdrawing of governmental funding, Bais Rochel still maintains its high level of Jewish religious education . Who is paying for it? The parents and the Jewish community.
While officialy, education in Belgium is free, I am paying 250Euro's each month to have my son go to a Jewish school. Yes, compared to other countries, that's a bargaine, but not in a country that advocates free education.
The parents of Bais Rochel (we're talking of large families with average of 6 kids), can not keep on paying these fees. Money is being raised in Antwerp and abroad. The international Jewish community has once again shown its legendary closeness by contributing large sums in order to keep Bais Rochel open. The avergae Jewish school currently runs on a deficit budget of 80.000 Euro's a year.
I personaly want to thank all the Jews, especialy in the UK and US for giving generously.
What is a black stain on Belgian educational funding, has become a beautiful rose of charity among the Jewish people. We take the education of our childeren serious.

But while Bais Rochel stays open, the wider issue has no sollution yet.
I resent paying taxes that are used for a national schoolsystem where childeren are being raised to become professional hooligans. I resent that my own country does not accept the education I want to give to my child and actively tries to prevent me from giving that education.

Een schande

ons onderwijs wordt kapot gemaakt door domheid. Sex is belangrijker dan taal en rekenen en geschiedenis dient natuurlijk enkel en alleen om het vlaams belang te bestrijden. Tv, poplawaai zijn belangrijker dan boeken lezen en klassieke muziek. Dat bais rachel gesloten kan worden wegens tekortkomingen in ONDERWIJS (lees rekenen, taal, schrijven, lezen, geschiedenis, aardrijkskunde) enz. kan ik aannemen maar vanwege de seks? Vanwege het feit dat ze niet naar radio luisteren , niet naar tv kijken en niet naar angelsaksische milieuvervuiling luisteren??
Juist om die redenen zouden ze extra moeten worden gesubsidieerd. Maar als ik dan lees dat Frankske hogescholen gaat subsidieren naar gelang het aantal afgeleverde diploma's , ja dan is het dek helemaal van de dam.
Hou ze maar dom die jeugd, de echte intelligente baasjes overleven dit verpamperings en verkleuteringsproces wel, de massa (die dan nog op die kloten stemt) wordt dan verder dom gehouden. Leuk als ze naar school gaan, pijnlijk als ze volwassen worden en aan de zijlijn blijven staan.

Jewish school decertification

I would like to know whether the Belgian education authorities are taking the same steps against non-Jewish schools that violate the national curriculum requirements. If so, then one can still find the policy narrow-minded and rigid, but at least it's being applied equitably. If not--that is, if Jewish schools are being singled out for punishment--then the story becomes much more troubling. Perhaps the author of this piece could comment.

Everyone is being targeted

The same rules apply to all schools. In fact most schools in Belgium are run by the Catholic church, but these have all conformed to the state's demands, which I - as a Catholic - find troubling. Apparently, orthodox Jews take their religion more seriously than the schools run by the Belgian bishops. One would expect the Church to defend the Jewish schools that are now being targeted. But the Church remains silent. Homeschoolers are also being increasingly targeted.

Wow - they made what used to

Wow - they made what used to be a legendary school choice and voucher system completely useless, but still found themselves with church & state separation problems. Aren't they just brilliant?!?