(JTA) — The United Kingdom’s education secretary launched an inquiry and condemned a London-based Hasidic sect for its decision to bar women from driving.
Nicky Morgan on Friday called the Belz rabbis’ driving ban, which included a stipulation that Belz schools expel students whose mothers drive them to school, “completely unacceptable in modern Britain,” according to The Jewish Chronicle.
Last week Belz rabbis issuedt a letter saying that female drivers violate “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and that children would be barred from Belz schools if their mothers dropped them off by car.
Morgan said: “If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people they are breaching the independent school standards. Where we are made aware of such breaches we will investigate and take any necessary action to address the situation.”
Ahron Klein, chief executive of the Belz Boys’ School in Stamford Hill, defended the sect’s decision in a letter to Morgan, according to the Chronicle, saying that the Belz schools fully accept “that despite being private schools we have responsibilities to our members and to the wider public. However, as private schools we have the freedom to set our own high standards by which we seek to live and bring up our children.”
The letter noted that the guidelines on women drivers are “restricted to our community and guided by the Torah and by the teachings of the Rebbes of Belz. We do not impose these guidelines on anyone who has not chosen to adhere to the mores of our community of his or her own free will. in line with our time-hallowed traditions.”
Dina Brawer, the U.K. ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, told the Chronicle the ban was “draconian” and compared it to the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia.
A Belz community member, Yanky Eljan, disputed the comparison, telling Agence France Press, “There’s no comparison to Saudi Arabia, women can be flogged in Saudi Arabia, there’s nothing like that.”