British High Court Says Jewish School’s Ethnic-Based Admissions Policy Is Illegal

December 16, 2009

Author: Sarah Lyall

Source: The New York Times

Britain’s Supreme Court declared Wednesday that it was illegal for a Jewish school that favors Jewish applicants to base its admissions policy on a classic test of Jewishness — whether one’s mother is Jewish.

“One thing is clear about the matrilineal test; it is a test of ethnic origin,” Lord Phillips, president of the court, said in his majority opinion. Under the law, he said, “by definition, discrimination that is based upon that test is discrimination on racial grounds.”

The decision, by Britain’s highest court, brings an end to a case that has exposed deep divisions among Britain’s 300,000 Jews and forced the judiciary to consider an ancient question at the heart of Judaism: Who is a Jew?