Now the anti-semites are going to criminalize Jewish law. Now the anti-semites are going to tell us who is and who isn't Jewish. They have no right.
Traditionally, whether one is Jewish is determined by maternal lineage. If one's mother is Jewish, one is Jewish. When the mother is a convert to Judaism, Orthodox Jews consider the child Jewish only if the conversion was in accordance with Orthodox conversion practices. Among non-Orthodox Jews, at least in the United States, the test is completely muddled, and among progressive Reform congregations, the standards for conversion are quite lenient.
In the case at issue, reported in The Independent, the Orthodox religious school gave preference in admissions to students who were Jewish using the Orthodox definition and standards for conversion. The school denied admission to a student whose mother had converted at a Progressive synagogue. The Court held that such preferences were discrimination on the basis of race:
In a far-reaching judgment, three judges found the well known JFS (formerly the Jews' Free School) in Brent, north-west London, racially discriminated against a 12-year-old boy by denying him a place at the school because his mother was not a recognised Jew.
The ruling was immediately attacked by the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs, who said he supported an appeal to the House of Lords to try to overturn the judgment so that Jews could "be true to the Jewish faith" by upholding the existing criteria for membership of the Jewish religion.
JFS argued that its admissions policy giving preference to Jewish children when the school was oversubscribed was lawful because it was based on religious and not racial criteria.
But the judges said that "the requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or by conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act".