I was heartened to read the contribution of Neil Barber of the Edinburgh Secular Society regarding “the proposed ban on women driving their kids to school imposed on grounds of “traditional rules of modesty” by the Jewish British Belz Hasidic sect in London’s Stamford Hill” (Letters, 30 May).
Probably, unlike Mr Barber, I am familiar with this particular group since I live near their Manchester synagogue and personally know many of its members.
On the whole, I find them to be good neighbours who go out of their way to help those less fortunate than themselves.
While I find some of the Hasidic attitudes to modesty rather over the top, this is primarily a reaction to the permissiveness that has become de rigeur in general society.
On balance, their lifestyle is certainly more wholesome than that of many others.
It is heartening that, unlike too many of those who propound liberal/secular viewpoints, Mr Sinclair makes the important point that “the Jewish school is not trying to impose its driving ban on all women, only those who subscribe to the religion and… the adult women involved are ostensibly free to leave”, unlike the superficial parallel in Saudi Arabia that no doubt springs to most readers’ minds.
He is, therefore, entirely correct in his call “to protect the freedom of private religious behaviour from state interference”, even when it conflicts with the mores of general society, provided, of course, it does not seek to impose it on non-members.
Martin D Stern