Orthodox schools group in crisis over video attack on Michael Gove

Orthodox schools group in crisis over video attack on Michael Gove

National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools is 'temporarily suspended' amidst an exodus of support, following a controversial clip criticising community allies

Screengrab from the video attacking allies of the community. Still shows the NAJOS headteachers conference
Screengrab from the video attacking allies of the community. Still shows the NAJOS headteachers conference

An umbrella group representing Orthodox schools has suspended operations amidst an exodus of support after it posted a video on social media attacking community allies.

The National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (NAJOS) on Tuesday said it was “seeking to renew its mandate” after its ill-judged video attacked cabinet minister Michael Gove.

A spokesman for organisation, which saw two of its four trustees resign over the issue, admitted it “was not rigorous enough in ensuring that proper editorial control was in place before the video was released”.

He added: “NAJOS is all the more upset that this has occurred because it strongly acknowledges that Michael Gove has always been a staunch friend of Jewish schools and the Jewish community.”

After reports that several schools had asked to be disassociated from the body, he continued: “NAJOS is temporarily suspended while it seeks to renew its mandate from the community and its leaders.”

NAJOS said the video was released “in response to the government’s consultation on sex and religious education,” with a deadline for submissions.

Screengrab from the NAJOS video attacking allies of the community.

The highly-edited video, which is overlaid by dramatic music more regularly heard in Hollywood horror films, begins by showing Gove talking about failing schools and increasing inspections in Parliament.

However trustees say they were not consulted on the video, which was created because of what Orthodox schools believe are threats from the Government to push through the teaching of protected characteristics, including individuals’ choice over gender and sexuality.

Rabbi Avroham Pinter, the principal of Yesodeh Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, who resigned as a NAJOS trustee over the matter, said attacking Gove was “madness”.

Expressing concern about a recent lack of oversight at NAJOS, Pinter said the video was “regrettable,” adding: “I was shocked when it came out. I believe it could be damaging. I would hate to think what Michael Gove would think if he saw it. He’s a friend – how could I look him in the eye?”

Pinter added: “It is true that we are facing unprecedented challenges [to Orthodox education] but we need to know who the real enemy is, and it’s not Michael Gove.”

Asked about the video, he said: “It comes down to how you respond. We’re British. We’ve got many friends, including the prime minister. There are issues, yes, this is a major problem, yes, but there are ways of dealing with it, and this isn’t it.”

The video, widely circulated on social media, shows a selection of MPs, ministers and Chief Inspectors of Ofsted, both past and present, while encouraging viewers to

Among the other trustees to have resigned are Yavneh College founder Benjamin Perl, and several schools, including Hasmonean, have asked for their names to be removed from all NAJOS material.

“We didn’t think that video was helpful,” said Levi Schapiro, head of Stamford Hill based Jewish Community Council. “In fact it is possibly damaging.”

Trustees were also uncomfortable with efforts to circulate the video throughout American Jewry, with American magazine ‘Ami’ encouraging American Jews to contribute to the British Government’s ‘call for evidence’ as part of its consultation on the teaching of religious and sex education (RSE).

Pinter, who also represents the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations on education, said: “That is not the correct response, encouraging international pressure on a UK Government consultation. It could backfire.”

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