Women who are part of a Hasidic sect in London have been told their children will be barred from school if they drive as it breaches modesty rules
In a letter seen by The Jewish Chronicle, the Belz Hasidic sect in Stamford Hill told women that the number of mothers who have started to drive has increased, which they said was leading to resentment among other parents, warning that as of August those who drive their children will be turned away from the school gates.
The paper says this move is the first formal instruction of its kind in the UK.
After the release of the letter, the sect’s women released a statement saying that driving a car was a high-pressured activity
“As Orthodox Jewish women belonging to the Belz community in London, we feel extremely privileged and valued to be part of a community where the highest standards of refinement, morality and dignity are respected,” the statement said according to Channel 4 News.
“We believe that driving a vehicle is a high-pressured activity where our values may be compromised by exposure to selfishness, road-rage, bad language and other inappropriate behaviour.”
The UK ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance told the BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight that the move showed that the sect are trying to hang on to their patriarchal hierarchy and limit women’s freedom of movement creating a dependency on men.
Dina Brawer, who is studying to become Britain’s first female Orthodox Jewish rabbi, said it’s impractical for women not to drive.
“There is nothing immodest about driving a car, there is nothing in our Jewish values that support this, there is nothing in Jewish law that supports this and to me this is more about power and control,” Brawer said.
Led by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach in Israel, the Belz sect began in the town of Belz in western Ukraine near the border with Poland in the early 19th century and upholds Hasidic traditions. Outside of Israel and the UK it has members in the U.S. and Canada.