Dear Mr Wolff

January 30, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Melbourne grandfather David Wolff, shocked by the recent story of Sydney’s Moriah College’s refusing a graduate’s child because the child’s grandmother had been converted to Judaism at the pluralistic Emanuel Synagogue, wrote a letter to the school’s president. Former Moriah president Robert Goot responds…

A response to David Wolff

Dear Mr Wolff

I read your letter with interest and dismay. Like you I have fought against anti-Semitism. I have worked for most of my adult life for the wellbeing and advancement of the Jewish people, including through Jewish day school education.

You have mentioned Mt Scopus College, Bialik College and King David School in Melbourne. They are all great schools. So too is Moriah. Each of those Jewish schools has a different Jewish curriculum and ethos. As does Yeshivah Beth Rivka and Leibler Yavneh College in Melbourne, the Yeshiva, Kesser Torah College, Masada College and the Emanuel School in Sydney. Together these schools cater to the diverse scope of Jewish beliefs, practices and commitment,  that exist within our two outstanding Jewish communities.  Each of them tries to ensure Jewish continuity in the best way they see it being successful. And consequently, amongst other things, they do not all have the same enrolment policy.

Moriah provides a Jewish education for halachically Jewish pupils. That is how Moriah seeks to ensure Jewish continuity. It has done so for 75 years. It is an important part of the Sydney Jewish community and receives communal funding through the JCA. But you say that is shameful. It is not. What would be truly shameful would be for a communal funding body to deprive a school of funds because it does not agree with its right to define and maintain its particular Jewish ethos or has a different view about that ethos.

Robert Goot

Moriah’s enrolment policy is not anti-Semitic as you suggest. Nor does Moriah discriminate against Jews. And in response to the comments posted by Malvina Malinek and Howard Joffee, not only does Moriah not contravene the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act,  but it falls within the exemption in section 56(d) of the NSW Anti Discrimination Act, which relates to bodies established to propagate religion.

Moriah’s parents appreciate its enrolment policy. Maybe they simply want a school where, their children can learn about, understand and absorb orthodox Judaism regardless of whether, or how often they attend shule and however they ultimately live their lives or identify as Jews. Maybe they just want them to socialise with other Jews in the hope that eventually they will find a life partner who they can marry in a Synagogue or in Israel.  Is that really so terrible?

Incidentally, Moriah’s enrolment policy has nothing to do with the shameful boycott by certain rabbis of the funeral service for my late friend and colleague Jeremy Spinak. You shouldn’t mix the two issues up.

Please try not to be angry and disappointed with Moriah. Continue to enjoy your family the good work you do for the community.

Robert M Goot AM SC

Comments

8 Responses to “Dear Mr Wolff”
  1. Andrew Blitz says:

    Amongst the impressive list of Australian day schools in Mr Goot’s list there is one missing. Carmel School in Perth is a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school. Due to the nature of the Perth Jewish community, which apparently is completely off the radar of the Eastern States, there is only one Jewish Day school in Perth. The school has students from across the spectrum of the community including families from the reform community. If a child is not halachically Jewish according to Orthodox tradition they are still welcome to the school. Religious services and observances are in accordance with halacha, but this is respected as the ethos of the school. It can and does work and is a model of Jewish communal unity.

    • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

      The Halachic status of the individual is not determined by the congregation with which they are affiliated.
      In Australia I would venture to say that a substantial proportion of individuals affiliated with Reform are Halachically Jewish.

  2. Boris Carshino says:

    Sorry Mr Ziegler, but according to Halacha, conversion by non-Orthodox clergy – despite their claim to be “Jewish” – is equal to conversion to “Judaism” by Jews for Jesus.

    And while it may not bother you to have non-(Halachic) Jews in Moriah, the vast majority of parents differ.

    You have a choice of sending your children to Emanuel or even Kings College, but genuine observant Jews are limited to where their kids are enrolled.

    • David Ziegler says:

      Mr Carshino – I suggest you don’t visit Israel. The law of return allows for Jews of all denominations (including those you so stridently disapprove of). I am intrigued as to how you know what the vast majority of Moriah parents think, given that no-one has ever bothered to ask them – indeed the school still refuses to allow the parent body to have any informed discussion on the matter.

      Your contention that observant Jews are limited as to where to enrol their kids is false. They can choose any school they want – including Moriah, Kesser Torah, Yeshiva and Emmanuel. Conversely the only Jews who are restricted are Reform or Conservative who are subject to the equivalet of a school Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

    • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

      Dear Mr Carshino,
      I assume that all who know me would never suspect that I am in the same theological camp as the Reform movement.
      Over the last 35 years I have intervened to rescue Jewish youth and adults who were ensnared by missionaries, both Jews for J and similar groups.
      Such cults are a cancer, they insidiously take advantage of the weak and vulnerable in our communities.
      Consequently, I would respectfully ask that you to remove the reference.

  3. Malvina Malinek says:

    Just one more question Mr. Goot,- how many generations does the inquisition go back to determine one’s chalahic credentials for each child?
    Most European parents/grandparents or immigrants from other continents would have no proof of their distant backgrounds. You would have to take their word for their Jewish background, wouldn’t yoy in order to accept their children? Ir the school would not accept unless there is proof?

    As far as I understand, Moriah is not a Yeshivah and unless I am wrong, it is not affiliated with Mizrachi or Adass or a similar ultra-Orthodox ,- therefore it is totally out of character to demand a certified chechsher for each child enrolled there. This is particularly galling when it discriminates against the child of a former student. Their future partners should not be your concern. They chiose their own from every walk of life these days unless iof course you have arranged or servile marriages going on there!

    Sorry,- it looks like discriminatory practices by the school and we cannot complain when Jews are excluded anywhere else by non-Jews.

    • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

      Posing such question to Mr.Goot is inappropriate, Robert is a senior Barrister and lay leader not an Orthodox Rabbi or Dayan in the Beth Din.
      I assume if there is a question about the Jewish status of a potential student the designated officer from the school board or administration would approach the Beth Din for a ruling, the Beth Din may seek the view of Chief Rabbinate of Israel in an extremely complicated case.

  4. David Ziegler says:

    Mr Goot – I am a Moriah parent. Please do not claim to speak for me. I do not appreciate Moriah’s discriminatory enrolment policy – in fact I am disgusted by it. As a Moriah alumni the most important thing I learnt during my Jewish education was to stand up and speak out against discrimination and bigotry. Moriah College is the only mainstream Jewish high school in Sydney’s east that has spare capacity. To see the school alienating and turning away members of the community seeking a modern orthodox Jewish education is shameful.

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