In Sweden, homeschooling is severely frowned upon. In fact, unless there’s a viable reason, it is virtually impossible for parents to educate their children at home. Now, Chabad-Lubavitch (Jewish) emissaries to Sweden have been threatened by city officials with thousands of dollars in fines for homeschooling their kids, according to the Israeli news outlet Arutz Sheva 7. Instead, the local government in the city of Gothenburg is reportedly attempting to force the family to utilize the public school system.
School authorities came to the home of Rabbi Alexander Namdar and his wife Leah on Jan. 26 to serve the family with a notice, reports say. Four of the couple’s children are currently studying online at an international school. If the family does not comply and immediately begin to send them to government-run educational facilities, they will be fined the U.S. equivalent of $2,400 per week.
Homeschooling is virtually banned in the country, where it takes an “extraordinary” situation (illness, among others) to allow for the government to permit it. Religious reasons are not considered valid cause for homeschooling.
These regulations are bizarre to Americans, who have the freedom to educate their children at home, should they choose. In the case of the Namdar family, the case is especially odd, considering that the quality of the children’s education (a factor of consideration that likely contributes to the ban), as Arutz Sheva 7 notes, is stellar:
The children’s education is not lacking by any means — and they are not the first in the family to have been educated at home. Six of the family’s 11 children also learned at home in their early years, and now live and study abroad at Jewish high schools, teaching seminaries and rabbinic colleges. All are pursuing careers in education.
Lubavitch.com has more about the children’s studies:
At their individual computers from 8:00 each morning to 1:15, five days a week, the children must master a full schedule of Judaic studies including proficiency in Hebrew. The afternoon is dedicated to English, Swedish, mathematics, geography, science, music, art, and gymnastics. All the children speak English, Swedish, and Yiddish fluently. They can read Hebrew by age 4 or 5, like other Orthodox Jewish children.
Their extra-curricular activities include community work with regular visits to the elderly, helping out with the Sunday Hebrew school classes for other Jewish children taught by their parents, and other educational activities. The online school also ensures the children benefit from a healthy social experience.
“We’re two parents fighting city hall for the right to give our children a Jewish education,” Leah said.
Her husband echoed this sentiment.
“This is a stain on the reputation of a country that takes pride in equality as a fundamental value,” Rabbi Namdar added.
The family’s lawyer, Richard Backenroth, is fighting back and appealing both the demand that they attend public school and the associated fine. According to Backenroth, this case will be extremely important to determining the nation’s commitment to religious freedom.
Aside from the fact that the family believes it should have the right to send its children where it so chooses, there is concern that anti-Semitism could be on the rise in Sweden. Even if this isn’t the case, the Namdar children are the only Orthodox kids in the city. To send them to a public school, Backenroth warns, could mean exposing them to a great deal of bullying and harassment.
The family is prepared, though, to face what they say could become “the last battle against Communism,” as they fight to educate their children in the way they so choose.