An orthodox jewish sect from Stamford Hill in north London has declared that women should be banned from driving.
British leaders of the ultra-orthodox Chasidic jewish sect believe having women drivers goes against the norms of Chasidic institutions. In a letter published on the jewish website, the Hasidic Belz rabbis say having women drivers goes against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp”.
A letter was sent out last week to mothers warning that pupils would be barred from school lessons if their mothers are seen behind the wheels of a car, unless they have a medical condition and have had prior approval from the religious leaders.
This directive is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. The controversial directive will ban female drivers from August.
The Jewish Chronicle reports:
According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.
They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.
Dina Brawer, UK Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said that “the instinct behind such a draconian ban is one of power and control, of men over women. 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.”
While many Chasidic women do not drive, this is thought to be the first formal declaration against the practice in the UK.
“It’s always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive,” one rabbi observed.”
But although some Chasidic sects discourage women from driving, others such as Lubavitch have no such policy. The wives of some senior non-Chasidic strictly Orthodox rabbis drive.
One local woman said that the policy “disables women. The more kids they have, the more they need to drive.” But she believed that some women would take no notice of the policy.
“They say one thing, they do another,” she said.
The Belz, who originated in Ukraine in the early 18th century, are one of the most prominent Chasidic sects and re-established their headquarters in Israel after the war. When the Belzer Rebbe celebrated the wedding of a grandson in Israel two years ago, some 25,000 guests attended.
Compared with some of the most conservative Chasidic sects, Belz are seen as relatively moderate and while some Charedi schools in London have struggled with inspections, both their main boys and girls schools, Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass and Beis Malka, are rated “good” by Ofsted.
Inspectors at Machzikei Hadass noted last year that there was a “very effective British values policy, and display throughout the school demonstrates the high priority that the school puts into this important area”.
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