Strictly Orthodox leaders have spoken of a “ground-breaking” visit to Stamford Hill by the new Jewish Leadership Council chair Jonathan Goldstein on Sunday.
Goldstein met a wide range of communal leaders and representatives from Orthodox charities and umbrella groups, amid an acknowledgement that the organisation has struggled to access the Charedi community.
“It was a great honour and privilege to welcome the JLC chair to Stamford Hill for this ground-breaking opportunity for both sides to engage more effectively on important communal issues,” said Levi Schapiro, founder and director of the Jewish Community Council (JCC), which organised the meeting.
Schapiro said: “In the past JLC and other groups haven’t always had an open door to Stamford Hill, but our ultimate goal here is to create a unity bridge where we can work together on issues we so passionately believe in. We look forward to continue working with the JLC.”
On the agenda were education, the “coroner crisis” and housing, with the parties agreeing to work within the auspices of JLC’s education division, Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS).
Orthodox leaders have seen an increasing number of downgrades from visiting Ofsted inspectors in recent years, leading some to say the national inspectorate was “not always a friend of the Charedi community”.
Schapiro said PaJeS had been “instrumental in helping on these important issues,” adding: “We looked at a broader range of ideas about how we can continue to improve our education system and satisfy the government requirements.”
Strictly Orthodox leaders also discussed the coroner crisis with Goldstein, describing “a constant battle with local inner London coroners who often refuse to release bodies in time for leviyahs (funerals)”. They also said coroners had “a huge lack of understanding about the religious aspect of avoiding autopsy”.
Both parties agreed to work closely on the issue, and the JCC said it was working with the new Secretary of State for Justice David Lidington to pass legislation to amend the current law.
Among the Orthodox groups represented on Sunday were Lecheris, whose volunteers help patients attend hospital; Shabbos L’menucha, which provides respite care for special needs children on Shabbos; special needs school Step by Step; emergency medical service Hatzola; Crohns Colitis Relief; emergency service Chaverim, which helps people with car breakdowns and lock-outs; London Learning Centre, which helps children with reading difficulties, Beis Yaakov Girls School and Kol Boniach, which works with vulnerable teens deemed to be at-risk.