Jewish board to appoint Muslim adviser

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By Riazat Butt, January 8th 2008

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is planning to recruit a Muslim adviser as part of a scheme to link schools dominated by a single faith.

The adviser will help develop religious and culturally sensitive programmes that will appeal to Jewish and Muslim schools taking part in its Shared Futures project, which fosters respect between pupils from the two faith communities.

The Board of Deputies is the first religious organisation in the UK to launch such a scheme, which complies with government requirements on promoting community cohesion in state-maintained faith schools. From September the schools watchdog, Ofsted, will evaluate whether this is being done.
Alex Goldberg, the director of community issues at the Board of Deputies, said: "By recruiting a Muslim schools adviser we will be able to create more links with the growing number of Muslim faith schools. What we find is that there is a diversity of what is culturally and religiously acceptable and what isn't. It's about having someone with that knowledge. There is a need to bring in a specialist so the advisers can work together to create something that suits pupils from both backgrounds."

Some faith schools have strict guidelines on what they can and cannot teach about other religions and may want to avoid direct interfaith activity, he added.

"Having hands-on projects is one way around this. We want all single faith schools to find an appropriate way to engage with each other. Traditional faith to faith dialogue is not necessarily the only option."
Last year the schools secretary, Ed Balls, presented a joint policy statement with representatives from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh groups to endorse faith schools as a force for improving social cohesion in the country.