Some stories never go away, even after the referee has given
his decision. Such a case is that of Carmel School in Perth,
Western Australia and the Goldberg family where the mother is
a Reform Convert who sought to have the Orthodox school
accept her son for enrollment.
Although the case was taken by the parents to the Equal
Opportunities Tribunal of Western Australia and dismissed, it
keeps on being dragged out by leaders of the Reform or
Progressive movement, both in Australia and Israel.
The case started in February 1996 when the Goldbergs sought
to enroll their son at the school.
After visiting the school and completing the enrollment
procedures, the Goldbergs were handed a letter stating
specific religious restrictions which would be placed on
their son because he was not really Jewish and therefore
prohibited by halacha from participating in some school
The Goldbergs were aided and abetted in their case by the
local Reform rabbi, Joshua Aronson, whose own children were
also not accepted into the school because of questions about
their Jewish status.
Perth is a community of some 4000 Jewish souls which is
rapidly growing, thanks to a steady influx of South African
It has three Orthodox synagogues, one Reform congregation, a
Jewish day school and an old-age home, as well as its own
sporting complex and community center. The Carmel Jewish Day
School is an Orthodox school that accepts all Jewish children
in the community regardless of whether they come from
Orthodox, Conservative or Reform homes. The major part of the
student body comes from non-Orthodox homes. The only line
drawn is around the Jewish community; it does not matter
whether the family is Orthodox, Conservative or Reform.
However, if the child is not Jewish then he cannot be
accepted in the full school program.
Mrs. Goldberg, the mother of the boy who was the subject of
the discrimination case, was born and raised Greek Orthodox
and became a "Jew by Choice" having "converted" by the
The Equal Opportunity Tribunal handed down a 46 page document
in which it dismissed the family's complaint.
It ruled that while the school had been discriminatory, it
had "acted in good faith according to its own particular view
of who is a Jew and what the doctrines of Judaism require of
The findings said: "It is the nature of religious freedom
that what is thought to be important is essentially a matter
for those concerned with the traditions of the faith to
determine, rather than outsiders. The educational institution
is excused from liability if, in good faith, it is generally
upholding the religious cause it seeks to advance."
The tribunal gave a similar ruling in its decision on the
question of family status, but declined to make any decision
as to whether Judaism was a religion or a race.
It also declined to comment whether it considered non-
Orthodox or Progressive Jews as adherents to the Jewish
faith, describing the question as "an issue for another
Commenting on the decision at the time, Gary Goldberg said
that both the school and the tribunal had accepted that his
son had been discriminated against and had relied on the
defense provisions within the Equal Opportunity Act which
allowed then to act in good faith.
"We feel we have been vindicated by the fact that they have
admitted they had discriminated against our son. It's time
now to get on with our lives.
"We had hoped that by taking this case to the tribunal there
would be sensible debate within the Jewish community on the
question, and hopefully we have achieved that," he said.
Carmel School spokesman barrister Julian Sher said the school
was pleased with the decision and appreciated the fact that
Australians were free under the law to practice their
religion, and that their denominational schools had the right
to conduct their affairs according to their religious
"The decision came out the way we thought it would. The
tribunal basically had to rule on three specific things:
religious discrimination, family status and racial
discrimination, and it acknowledged that in each instance the
school had acted in good faith."
While most sections of the community thought this matter was
closed by the tribunal decision, it was again brought very
loudly and strongly to the fore at the annual conference of
the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the lay roof body
of the Australian Jewish community, that was attended by
representatives of each Australian State Jewish Community
Council and various other Federal roof bodies including the
Asian, Australian and New Zealand Union for Progressive
The AANZUPJ delegate attacked the head of the Council of
Western Australian Jewry for the way he had singled out the
Perth Reform rabbi Joshua Aronson for criticism for the way
in which he acted in stirring up the Goldberg case and
keeping it boiling.
Richard Block, the president and chief executive officer of
the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said in a telephone
interview that he understood that Orthodox institutions have
the right to set criteria for themselves but in that
particular situation where Carmel is the only Jewish day
school in Perth, they missed an opportunity to be a force for
Jewish unity in the community.
Community leaders noted that the school's approach of
admitting all Jewish students has been a tremendous force for
unity for many years, and in fact 90% of the student body is
from non-Orthodox homes.
The the Vaad Horabbonim Haolami Leinyonei Giyur headed by
HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth of Antwerp sent a strong message of
support for the courageous stand of the Carmel School in not
allowing a non-Jewish child to enter the school in the face
of community and international media pressure. The Vaad
spokesman said that the Perth school's decision should set an
example for Jewish schools worldwide to establish proper
criteria for determining who is an authentic Jew when
admitting students to their schools. The Perth school was
mekadeish sheim Shomayim after the Reform manipulated
the situation to divide the community and to besmirch the
Orthodox school and thereby create a chillul Hashem to
the secular world.
Victor Kleerekoper is senior writer on the Australian