Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Orthodox Jews and Identity

If you want to live and operate in a modern Western society, you must accept the fundamental principles of our civilization.  And one of the most basic truths we hold about humanity is that one's identity is a matter of personal choice.  The individual determines who and what he or she is.  This decision is definitely not made by self-proclaimed authority figures who were not chosen by a democratic process.

The 12-year-old boy was refused a place at the JFS (formerly known as the Jews' Free School) in Brent, in north London.

The boy has a father who is Jewish by birth and a mother who is Jewish by conversion.

But the conversion ceremony was conducted by a Progressive ... synagogue which is not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The children of atheists, and practising Christians, were allowed to attend as long as their mothers were considered Jewish.

Although Liberal Jews say faith is about belief rather than ethnic origin, Orthodox Jewish supporters of the school said the Supreme Court's ruling risked infringing their human rights by interfering with the way they have always been defined.

from this BBC story

The British Supreme court ruled that the school's policy was illegal.  I agree with them.  There is clearly something wrong with a religious school that cheerfully admits atheists while refusing a spot to a child of someone who freely chose the Jewish faith.  These Orthodox Jews are, by the standards of our civilization, racist.  It is clear that their definition of 'Jew' is based mainly on genetics and not personal choices.  They were trying to use our society's religious freedom as a cover for ethnic discrimination.

This attitude is certainly not limited to Orthodox Jews.  There are far too many people in this world that simply do not value personal choice and individual liberty, people who think that they have the right to rule the lives of other people in the name of 'community' or 'society' or 'religion'.

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