Monday, January 23, 2012

The Jewish Free School

Since early last week, there has been a lot of attention paid to a particular Jewish Studies lesson taught at the Jewish Free School (JFS) with regard to a reference allegedly made to an American organisation called JONAH aka Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (possibly now changed to 'Healing' rather than 'Homosexuality').

The furore began with a front page article in the Jewish Chronicle, that suggested the school might be teaching that homosexuality can be 'cured'.
Read it here

Keshet UK - the LGBT Jewish Forum put out a press release
Read it here

Pink News, an online lgbt website followed the JC, including a response from the headmaster of the school.
Read it here

The London Evening Standard picked up on these stories and printed their version.
Read it here

Meanwhile, the Progressive Jewish movement spokespeople began to express their positions:

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner spoke on behalf of the Movement for Reform Judaism.
Read it here

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein spoke on behalf of the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism.
Read it here

Other initial responses included:
Adam Wagner on Cartoon Kippah (here)
Dalia Fleming, a former JFS student, responded here. She also writes about her experience here.
The LJY-Netzer weekly Chinuch article
letter from former head girl Alma Smith

Not having been in the lesson myself, I cannot comment on the details of what happened. However, if just one student came out of that lesson feeling confused and unsafe, then I must do all I can to support him/her in working with the school to change that atmosphere.

JFS does not deny making a reference to JONAH. If only they had been prepared to say ooooops we should have researched this organisation properly before including it in the curriculum, then there probably would not have been a story at all. In any case, rather than focussing on one particular occurrence,the question now is how to go forward, to make sure that the entire culture of the school may be developed to create a safe space for our LGBT students.

UPDATE Here is a link to a current Orthodox Jewish perspective from North America on homosexuality.

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