U.K. Hasidic Sect Drops Ban on Women Driving

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An ultra-Orthodox Jew walks past the Ahavas Torah synagogue in Stamford Hill, north London, on March 22, 2015, after a suspected anti-Semitic attack there.Credit: AFP

Two Hasidic schools in London have dropped a ban on women driving their children to school after being warned by a British human rights commission that the ban was illegal.

Late last month, rabbis from the Belz Hasidic sect issued a letter saying that female drivers violate “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and that children would be expelled from Belz schools located in north London if their mothers dropped them off by car.  The sect runs two elementary schools, one for boys and one for girls.

On Wednesday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the sect saying that its “actions are unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.”

Earlier in the week, the commission had said in a statement that “this sort of discrimination has no place in our society and we will be writing to leaders of the Belz educational institutions to underline their legal obligations."

But on Friday, The Guardian reported that the chief executive of the schools, Ahron Klein, said that the ban had not been approved by the schools' board of governors, and that mothers would be able to give their children a ride to the class.

“The headteacher sent out the letter on behalf of the spiritual heads of the community, who had not taken into account the implications of such a policy,” The Guardian reported Klein as saying.

“The school believes that women have a choice about whether they want to drive or not, and our policy is to accept all children who are members of our community, which we have been doing for the last 40 years,” he added.

Klein noted that the rabbis' original letter detailed the Belz sect's values when it comes to female drivers, but said that the governors did not approve excluding students because their mothers drove them to school. He also said that the board had not approved the letter before it was sent out, The Guardian reported.

In response , the commission stated that they "welcome this statement" and "hope to receive a formal response to our letter."

After news of the ban hit the press, women of the Belz movement had reportedly issued a statement in support of the move, saying they “feel extremely valued belonging to a community where the highest standards of refinement morality and dignity are respected," according to The Guardian.

Many Hasidic groups in the United States also frown upon women driving.

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