The chareidi kehillah in Antwerp is shocked and disturbed by a new law passed by the Belgian government. There are some 12,000 children in private schools, of whom 2,000 are in Jewish schools and mosdos. Earlier in the summer, the Flemish government set out regulations which will force Jewish schools, both state-funded and private, to teach a compulsory curriculum in line with that taught in other Belgian schools.
This curriculum includes not only math and language; it also includes topics which are not suitable for a chareidi lifestyle. If the schools do not comply, they will lose hundreds of thousands of euros in annual subsidies.
In addition to the the financial consequences for the schools, there are consequences for parents: Children will be tested at strategic points in their school career. If they fail, the parents will be held liable and may be fined, and the children may be forced to attend non-Jewish schools.
The kehillah is particularly troubled by these pronouncements, as no consultation process was carried out. In fact, when a representative of the community complained to an official from the Education Ministry, he was told, “The law is the law.”
Schools and mosdos have joined together to protest the new law. A well-attended asifah was held, and three members of the community — Mr. Volvi Ollech, Mr. Osher Roth and Mr. Dani Klagsbald — are working together to investigate the best course of action.
The kehillah is seeking legal advice and if necessary will take the matter to the Appeal Court.