Quebec’s education ministry has obtained a court injunction to shut down a private Jewish school in Montreal for not maintaining scholastic standards.
The Académie Yeshiva Toras Moshe has offered an extensive religious education to Jewish boys in Montreal’s tony Outremont neighbourhood for half a century.
The yeshiva receives no provincial funding and does not hold a permit to teach, which contravenes Quebec’s education law.
The province’s education ministry has since 2006 pressured the school to comply with education regulations, after inspections revealed that it was emphasizing religious teachings to the exclusion of secular, provincially-sanctioned core curriculum such as history and geography.
The ministry requested the school modify its lessons and hours of operation, “and give more non-religious or more secular studies,” explained Alex Wertzberger, president of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations.
Those requests are unreasonable and heavy-handed, and Yeshiva Toras Moshe now finds itself “at an impasse,” Wetzberger said.
Students at the yeshiva get a well-rounded education. “They’re being taught everything that non-Jewish school [teach], but a little bit compressed,” he said. “Basically the three Rs, and history and geography.”
Religious education offered at the yeshiva is essential to forging a Jewish identity among youth, he added. “Why don’t we work on the Sabbath? Why do we eat kosher? We have a certain lifestyle, which we’ve been following for thousands of years, and we’re not going to bend.”
Some other Jewish schools previously rebuked for excessively emphasizing religious teachings have compromised, but Yeshiva Toras Moshe will not, Wertzberger said.
Quebec’s injunction will be heard in Superior Court in October. Yeshiva officials say they will be ready to fight the order.