London’s JC, the paper of record for Anglo-Jewry runs down the cabinet of newly minted Prime Minister David Cameron, who has his own Jewish roots traced back to the 16th Century (Jews were only readmitted legally to Britain in the 17th Century, under the Navigation Act of 1651, having been expelled back in 1290 by Edward I) and what it means for the Jews. Much of the concern and comment is vis-a-vis Israel, noting for instance that Cameron has called the Old City “occupied East Jerusalem” and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Dem leader who is now Deputy PM, has made comments that trouble Israel supporters in England. The new Defense (or Defence as they say in the UK) Secretary, Liam Fox, is a hardliner on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and has said publicly “Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall, divided.”
But to us, the most interesting pieces were regarding faith schools in England, which have been under some assault lately by the courts as being racist and somehow, un-English. Michael Gove is the new Education Secretary, and besides pledging to make it easier for parents to form and found new faith schools, when speaking about security arrangements at schools, said matter-of-factly, “It is one of the tragedies of our time that the hatred we thought was banished decades ago is here again.” He pledged: “The idea that hardworking parents have to pay money to keep their children safe… No! I promise to make sure they are safe. They will not have to pay for security.” He also noted Church of England and Roman Catholic schools are different, saying “they do not need the security Jewish schools need.”
To step back, England is more lax – in a very good way – in their funding of religious and parochial schooling. It’s much easier for them than us; as they say, the major difference between the US Constitution and the British is we here don’t make ours up as we go along. Add to it that the sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, is also defender of the faith and head of the Church of England, and you have much looser restrictions on funding religion in the public square.
But still, we can all agree (we think) that security is a basic governmental obligation and that keeping kids safe in whatever school they’re in is something government ought to be doing. The UASI grant program under the US Department of Homeland Security for which the OU is a lead advocate on Capitol Hill is a great first start. It need not be the last word. We should all be watching how England does it.