A court in Antwerp, Belgium has ordered a Jewish Orthodox school for girls to admit the sons of an Orthodox Jewish man who is radically anti-Zionist.
The Belgian judge gave the “Bnos Yerushalayim” school five days to admit Moshe Aryeh Friedman’s two sons, 11-year-old Yaakov and seven-year-old Yosef, reports Ynet, a popular Israeli news website.
The school, which is expected to appeal the ruling, had argued that Orthodox Judaism requires boys and girls to be educated separately. It also noted that the building has no restrooms for males. The judge discounted these objections.
If the school doesn’t comply, it will face a fine of 1000 euro (about $1300) per day per child, according to the Gazet van Anwerpen, a local broadsheet.
Prior to the ruling, every Jewish school in Antwerp had refused to admit the boys. However, most schools in this small western European country — including the Jewish Orthodox schools – are subsidized by the state. As such, the court ruled, the all-girls school must abide by the state’s mixed education policies.
The judge’s decree, which is temporary until a final decision can be reached for the next full academic year, is the latest chapter in a long, complex story.
Moshe Friedman and his wife Leah emigrated from New York to Antwerp in 2011.
The rabbi is a former member of a Jewish sect — Neturei Karta — that calls for the peaceful demise of Israel as the political entity based on the belief that Jews cannot have their own state until the Jewish Messiah arrives.
The big problem for Friedman, 40, is that he attended a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran in 2006, Ynet explains. He was photographed there kissing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In an interview with a Belgian television station, Friedman alleged that the all-girls schools rejected his sons as “revenge” for his “opinions and connections with world leaders,” according to The Times of Israel.
“My children have nothing to do with my political opinions,” he added, according to Ynet.
Friedman also said that he had no other option but to enroll his sons at the “Bnos Yerushalayim” school. It’s not clear why he was unable to convince the judge — or if he tried to convince the judge — to force an all-boys or mixed-gender Jewish school to accept his sons.
Friedman and his wife have three teenage daughters as well. The girls remain in educational limbo until a court rules on their fate.