Chabad emissaries Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar, residents of Gothenburg, Sweden since 1991, were legally mandated by the Swedish Supreme Court on Thursday to pay a fine of $67,000 for homeschooling their children. They are required to pay the fine by Friday, June 14, 2019, as well as $30,000 in court costs.
The Namdars are Orthodox Jews who are committed to teaching their children an Orthodox Jewish curriculum along with Torah studies. Since an Orthodox Jewish school doesn’t exist in Sweden, they homeschool their children, like many Chabad emissaries in various cities throughout the world. They have been doing so for decades as nine of their eleven children are already young adults. As Rabbi Namdar says, “The absurdity here cries out to the Heavens because the city knows very well the excellent education and the maximum effort we give to our children, and in the past, we received much feedback about it.”
Additionally, as Sweden has become a haven for countless Muslim immigrants, the country is increasingly dangerous for obviously Jewish residents. “My sons are the only ones in the entire city who walk around in a street with an overt Jewish appearance,” Rabbi Namdar elaborated. “Only a month ago, a Jewish woman in Sweden was critically wounded by a Muslim immigrant who stabbed her. In addition, this past winter, Molotov cocktails were thrown at our shul.”
However, in 2011, Sweden passed a law forbidding Swedish residents from homeschooling their children except in the case of extraordinary circumstances. The “extraordinary circumstances” do not include “safety and religion.” According to the Namdars, Sweden’s homeschooling law contradicts the European Union law mandating religious freedom and human rights for all EU residents.
The Gothenburg educational department petitioned the court against the Namdars and they were fined tens of thousands of euros.
“It should be emphasized: Our education is not alien to the municipality because we are the parents of eleven children. Nine of them grew up and studied at home, and they went on to become marvelous individuals. They had additional private tutors for secular studies which cost us a fortune, and in all the tests that the Swedish Department of Education gave to us, all of them without exception succeeded and received compliments on their education and their knowledge.”
“Our adult children work in Jewish education as leaders, teachers and rabbis in the United States, Iceland and Sweden,” Rabbi Namdar continued. “It should also be emphasized that my wife Leah, originally from London, is a certified educator. I myself have a rabbinical studies certificate that is considered a BA in the United States.”
“Their attempt to impose on us an education that contradicts our principles reminds us of stories about Jewish religious children in socialist Russia. And again: The reason our children do not go to school is not because they do not like to go, or because they work or because we are lazy. They learn very well and often, and they receive an intensive education. Their knowledge of mathematics, English, engineering, geography, etc. – is equivocal and sometimes even higher than that of ordinary children from a state school.”
“Therefore, there is no reason why we should not be allowed to raise our children in the spirit of Judaism. In addition, we explained to them that the security situation here is uncomfortable for the Jews, especially for those who are visibly Jewish.”
“In such a situation we cannot put our children at such risk and put them in a public school. The responses of municipal representatives on this issue were outrageous. They do not see any danger in that our children will learn with a hostile and even dangerous environment and suggest that we simply pack ourselves up and move to another city or country, or that the children sit locked in a special room so Muslims cannot deal with them. This is deliberate and anti-Semitic abuse.”