British chief rabbi supports teaching Islam in Jewish schools
British chief Rabbi has called on the country’s Jewish schools to amend their curricula to include Islamic studies in order to be able to comply with new educational guidelines being put in place by the government.
In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle published on Wednesday, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took a radically different position than he had expressed in the past, when he and representatives of other Orthodox organizations advocated against the push for British schools to include a second faith in their religious studies curriculum.
The new rules would cut down the amount of time Jewish schools that follow the state curriculum could dedicate to Jewish schools by a quarter.
“Losing 25 percent of the time allotted for teaching Jewish studies as part of the religious studies GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) was a serious loss for Jewish education in our schools,” a spokesman for Mirvis told the Chronicle.
“It is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims. As such, the chief rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse,” he said.
“Although the chief rabbi has not issued any formal guidance on this issue – since, ultimately, it is for the schools themselves to judge how best to tailor their curriculum – we have had a series of positive discussions with a number of our schools and made recommendations to them,” the spokesman added, calling the chance to include Islamic studies a “valuable opportunity.”
The Reform Movement in Britain praised Mirvis on Thursday, with the movement’s senior rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, telling The Jerusalem Post that she felt that teaching about Islam was both “an excellent idea” and “long overdue.”
“We are stronger as a faith group, and as a community, when we better understand others in our society,” she said.
The London-based JFS secondary school remained concerned that adequate time be given to the study of Judaism, but welcomed the guidance of the chief rabbi in helping to decide that Islam will be the second religion taught at GCSE.
“Our students will relish this addition to our
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