Contemporary Chanuka Challenge
Jews all over the world have recently celebrated the 8 days of Chanuka, reliving the miracle of the little jar of oil that lasted for 8 days and also our spiritual triumph over Greek culture.
Stop Press: two strictly orthodox schools receive letters from the Department of Education putting them on notice “to improve”; one a 3–16 girls’ school in North London and one a Yeshiva in Manchester.
Greece 2nd Century BC? Germany 1935?
No – United Kingdom October 2018.
Whilst the orthodox Jewish representative education organisation ChinuchUK continue their trojan work under the guidance and wisdom of our leading Rabbis to stem the tide of fundamental attacks on our schools, under our noses the authorities are continuing to inspect our schools and, in using their agenda to interpret the guidelines in their own way, threaten to close our schools. Our schools need our prayers.
How are our schools failing our children according to the authorities? There are a number of items that are identified as failings in these schools which certainly could need addressing, but number 1 fault is: not adequately teaching respect for others according to the Protected Characteristics as set out in the 2010 Equalities Act. Whilst there are 9 Protected Characteristics, it is well nigh impossible for any visitor to the school to see evidence of teaching of all of them in their short visit. However, we are in an Orwellian situation where “All Protected Characteristics are equal; but some are more equal than others”. And if school inspectors cannot see 2 particular PC’s taught, schools fail the inspection.
In an essay on Chanuka, a leading Rabbi describes how the ancient Greeks knew that they could not tell the Jews not to believe in G’d – this would be too much. However, what they could do if they tried, was to make a hole in their beliefs and, through wearing away at that hole, make inroads onto their belief structure.
Similarly now, whilst education authorities continue to allow us to educate our children as we wish either in the state or independent sectors, they also are making invidious demands on the nuances of diversity and equality which need to be interpreted according to the “Modern Britain” paradigm rather than the Torah paradigm.
In 2nd century Greece, it was the Sabbath, circumcision and celebrating the new month that were threatened; in 21st century England it is our fundamentals of Creation and the sanctity of the family that come under the hammer. Anyone knows: knock down the pillars and the rest comes crumbling down.
Why is education still so high on everyone’s agenda and why are the legislative and policy making bodies so intent on not only incorporating but promoting their newfound cultural philosophies into every strand of education?
There is a famous passage in the Talmud that discusses as to whether the ram’s horn,used to announce the new month and new year, can be moved on the Sabbath. It is cited that as the ram’s horn was also used as a substitute for what we would use as a baby bottle, then it can be moved. Further commentary notes that the Ram’s horn is so precious because this is the feeding mechanism for our babies. Our education is the feeding mechanism of our children. We know it and the authorities know it. We know that we need to protect any inroad into the education of our children. They know that if they succeed in interfering with the education of our children, they will succeed in absorbing our children into contemporary culture. As Jews we have no problem in contributing to modern society, as we do and have always done, in whatever capacity we can. Indeed, in her Chanuka message 2018, Prime Minister Mrs May paid tribute to “the outstanding contribution to British life made by so many of our Jewish community”. However this does not mean integration by the adaptation of all their philosophy and practice.
So, when, on these 8 precious nights of Chanuka, we say the prayer that relates that the Chanuka story happened “in those days but also in our times” we should bear in mind that we are living the prophecy of those words.