School Case Is Heard in Sweden's Supreme Court

Judge to issue decision on December 2nd.


by Baila Olidort - STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

November 4, 2004

Emerging from Stockholm’s National Court, Rabbi and Mrs. Alexander Namdar reported to Lubavitch.com that the court will issue a decision on December 2 regarding Jewish Day School Beit Menachem vs. Skolverkert, (Freedom of Religious Education: On Trial in Sweden).

“The judge gave us a fair hearing, and allowed us to present our argument,” said Rabbi Namdar. “We are grateful for the opportunity we had to explain to the court how it is that Jewish children do qualify as having special educational needs, and that the school should thus be allowed to remain open.”

At the beginning of the hearing, said Mrs. Leah Namdar, the judge noted that many letters were received in support of Beit Menachem. “Letters from around the world expressed tremendous support for our struggle,” says Leah, “and we are grateful to everyone who took an interest in our cause.”

Using the Hebrew words from Proverbs (3:6) “In all thy ways acknowledge Him,” Leah explained to the court that an authentic Jewish education demands the integration of Jewish values in all aspects of daily, routine life. “I tried to impress upon the judge that it is not a subject, but rather a way of life—that in our school, from the moment they arrive at school till the moment they leave, the students are incorporating a Jewish value system.”

Leah explained that the teachers employed at Beit Menachem must themselves be exemplars of Jewish life and Jewish values. She spoke of the children learning to live life with an awareness of a higher being and how this informs their behavior as they interact with others, and as they relate to themselves. Torah lessons have practical applications, she said. “This week, for example, the children learned the weekly Torah reading about Abraham and Sara in their old age, which we followed up by a trip to the local old age home where the children learned empathy and respect for the elderly.”

In an environment that values “sameness” over differentiation, the Namdars argued that Jewish children do have different educational needs and that Beit Menachem answers that difference. “It is not only that we serve strictly kosher food, but it is also how they eat,” she said, pointing out that the children at Beit Menachem are taught to take the time to say a blessing over the food before they eat, and after lunch they say birkhat hamazon—the grace after meals—so that this awareness is deeply instilled. At the same time, the Namdars underscored that Beit Menachem respects and adheres to all curriculum standards set by Sweden’s board of education, and provides its students with a high academic level.

The struggle to keep Beit Menachem open has generated considerable interest among Jewish community leaders around the world who have been following this case closely, and will be looking forward to the judge’s ruling, on December 2. The date corresponds to the 19th day of Kislev, an auspicious date on the Chasidic calendar commemorating the liberation of the founder of Chabad, R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, from Czarist prison, reflects Rabbi Namdar. He points out that today is 20 Cheshvan, which marks the birthdate of R. Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch, the fifth in the dynasty of Chabad Rebbes and the founder of the Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch.

"We hope the date of 19 Kislev--corresponding to December 2, will be a redemptive one for us here in Sweden," says Rabbi Namdar.

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