Religious affiliation, ethnicity, and power in admission policies to Jewish religious schools

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This paper analyzes the challenges embedded in the conflict between the right to accessible education, which implies a prohibition on discriminatory practices in school admission, and the right to adaptable education, which accommodates children’s cultural affiliations. It shows that a normative lens, which examines the ways by which legal rules correspond to conflicting rights and interests, cannot fully capture the tension between legal prohibitions on discrimination in education and the sociocultural norms in religious communities. Thus, the paper offers a socio-legal lens, which focuses on the context of admission policies to Jewish religious schools. Based on three test cases of admission policies to Jewish religious schools in Israel, England, and Flanders, Belgium, the paper demonstrates how the legal rules regulating the admission policies are influenced by social forces. In Israel and England, these forces have facilitated a descent down slippery slope, originating with religious criteria, but concluding with discriminatory criteria. They also shaped admission practices reflecting the asymmetric power relations between the institutional school systems and individual families. The paper highlights the benefits of the Belgian policy, which proscribes religious classification of school candidates. This policy circumvents the ambiguous distinction between religion, ethnicity, and social class, and expands educational choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-92
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Comparative and international education
  • educational policy
  • ethnicity
  • inequality
  • multicultural education
  • multiculturalism
  • race
  • social class
  • social exclusion in education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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