Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has praised the Chief Rabbi for producing a booklet for Jewish schools to embed tolerance of LGBT+ pupils into their ethos.
Williamson was speaking at Kinloss, Finchley Synagogue, on Tuesday evening during this week’s Chief Rabbi’s Conference, in front of 150 Jewish religious leaders.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was criticised in September last year after publishing a guide to prevent the bullying of Jewish LGBT+ students, with Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, 90, the vice-president of Israel’s Rabbinical Court, calling it “blasphemy”.
However Williamson said he was not surprised at Mirvis’s intervention, given his background growing up in South Africa, where his father preached against apartheid and his mother was principal of the first teacher training college for black teachers.
“I can’t imagine how much courage that must have taken for both of them,” said Williamson. “I have no doubt this kind of upbringing has made Chief Rabbi Mirvis especially aware of the dangers of intolerance and bigotry.
So I am not surprised at the work he has done on producing guidelines on how to support and nurture LGBT pupils in Jewish schools. At a time when people are finding aspects of the new curriculum challenging, his sensible and measured guidance is very welcome indeed.”
Among the other speakers was former Soviet Refusenik Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, Rabbi Moshe Lebel of Yeshiva Torah Chaim in Moscow, Rabbi Dr JJ Shachter of Yeshiva University in New York, and Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK.
Highlights of the Chief Rabbi’s Conference included lively and inspiring addresses by former Soviet Refusenik, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, Rabbi Moshe Lebel, Rabbi Dr JJ Shachter of @YUNews & HE @MarkRegev – Israel’s Ambassador to the UK pic.twitter.com/Ib4ueNMnOj
— Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi) September 11, 2019