Montreal’s Satmar kehillah has begun a court battle to stop the Quebec government from closing down its yeshiva. The school in question, Yeshiva Toras Moshe on Casgrain Ave., has about 150 students from the Satmar community’s 320 families.But the yeshiva, which devotes 35 hours a week to religious studies and only six to secular subjects, is not following the basic curriculum required of all schools, Quebec government lawyer Eric Dufour told Judge Gerard Dugre yesterday.
The curriculum calls for nine hours a week of language training, seven hours for maths and two hours of physical education/health in every public and private school at the early elementary level, subsidized or not.
Also, none of Yeshiva Toras Moshe’s six secular teachers has a permit to teach. The school hires staff from the Satmar or other frum communities that “understands its values,” an administrator said,
After four years of negotiations, the education department is seeking a permanent injunction to close the school and a temporary one to do so immediately while core issues are argued in another court.
Dugre suggested religious freedom guarantees in the Canadian and Quebec rights charters might be invoked on appeal if the court closes the school.
“You are asking me to create jurisprudence,” he told Dupre, who countered the Satmar school, operating without a permit, is breaking the law.
There are precedents for exceptions being made to the public instruction act. “Equivalence” can be granted to some of the Talmudic studies in lieu of secular courses.
The education minister also may exempt a religious non-profit organization from following the full curriculum.
“We are ready to make changes, but there are limits,” the school’s lawyer, Jean Lemoine, cautioned.
He stressed that education for ultra Orthodox Jewish communities is no trivial matter, but a “religious obligation.”
“Diligent study of the Torah, along with its various codices of the law … permeates our lives,” school director David Meisels said in an affidavit.
“We are not allowed, nor are we in any position to compromise on it,” he added.
“Complementary secular education must be in conformity with the principles of our religion … it cannot detract from religious studies,” Meisels stressed.
The case continues today.