03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The British Supreme Court and the "Jewish Question"

Here in America, the idea of government-sponsored religious schools is an anathma, but in most other countries this is not the case. State-sponsored religion is, to some extent, the rule everywhere -- even if it's watered-down to the point of irrelevance. Such is the case in the Commonwealth of Nations, where all "mainstream" religious faiths receive government aid, at least in regard to schools.

Such is the case with JFS, formerly known as the Jewish Free School, this is a very old and venerable institution, which dates back to the 1730s and is run by the Office of the Chief Rabbi, who is currently Sir Jonathan Sacks, who sits in the House of Lords. The problem is that Sacks, while not ultra-orthodox, is close to it, and thus he refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Progressive/Reform branch of the "tribe."

So when the parents of a child only known as "M" applied last summer, they were shocked to discover that their son was rejected because his mother was converted by a Progressive/Reform Rabbi. Thus, the kid, who was raised Jewish, by parents who THOUGHT they were Jewish and had the paperwork to prove it, actually were "goyim."

M's parents were understandably furious, and they sued. They lost. They appealed, and the British Court of Appeal found that the school in Brent, northwest London, had discriminated against the child on racial grounds, which is patently illegal under British law, especially if it's taxpayer funded.

Dinah Rose, QC, representing M, said at a previous hearing that JFS would accept a child of Jewish-born "committed atheists" but exclude others because of their mother's descent even if they were "Jewish by belief and practice". Which brings us to another question for another day, If these kids aren't Jewish, than what are they?

The "Who is a Jew?" question is a thorny one, which has been bedeviling Israel since its inception. I myself am of the opinion of the Nazi definition of anyone with one Jewish grandparent. If you're going to get clobbered for it, then you might as well get the benefits too, but that's just me.

A couple of weeks before the case was argued, JFS accepted a kid who's mother was converted by a reform Rabbi, which shows that they realize that what they did was wrong. After all, "half-Jews" who are rejected by the community are likely to become anti-semites.

The court should rule by the end of the year.