The leaders of a major Jewish Chasidic sect in north London, UK, have banned women from driving, saying that it was “immodest”—and their move has been supported by their official women’s organization.
According to a report in the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, the rabbis of the Belz community said that having female drivers goes against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and against the norms of Chasidic institutions.
It added that, from August, children would be barred from their schools if their mothers drove them there.
According to the letter — which was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis — there has been an increased incidence of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.
They said that the Belzer Rebbe in Israel, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, has advised them to introduce a policy of not allowing pupils to come to their schools if their mothers drive.
While many Chasidic women do not drive, this is thought to be the first formal declaration against the practice in the UK, the Jewish Chronicle continued.
In response to coverage of the story, the local Belz’s women’s organisation Neshei Belz issued a statement to say that they felt “extremely privileged and valued to be part of a community where the highest standards of refinement, morality and dignity are respected. We believe that driving a vehicle is a high pressured activity where our values may be compromised by exposure to selfishness, road-rage, bad language and other inappropriate behaviour.”
One Stamford Hill rabbi said that it had “always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive”.
The Belz, who originated in Ukraine in the early 19th century, are one of the most prominent Chasidic sects and re-established their headquarters in Israel after the war. When the Belzer Rebbe celebrated the wedding of a grandson in Israel two years ago, some 25,000 guests attended.
According to a February 2019 report in London’s Evening Standard newspaper dealing with a court case resulting from Jews-only housing built in the Stamford Hill suburb, Stamford Hill has the biggest Orthodox Jewish population in Europe.