MONTREAL - A former member of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish group north of Montreal has told a courtroom that he graduated from an unlicensed religious school without ever hearing the words "science" or "geography."
Yochonon Lowen said his education in the school run by the Tash community of Boisbriand, Que. involved long hours of studying religious texts in Yiddish and Hebrew but no secular subjects.
After graduating, he said, he had to take English lessons in secret at a Jewish community centre in Montreal because he hadn't learned any in school and it was frowned upon to seek education from outside sources.
Lowen, 42, and his wife Clara Wasserstein have filed legal action against the Quebec government, which they accuse of failing to ensure they received the education to which they were entitled.
They are not seeking damages but want a ruling declaring the province and several Hasidic schools violated provincial education laws, in the hopes of ensuring other children in Quebec's ultra-Orthodox schools receive a standard education.
The Quebec government and a lawyer representing the Tash community have told the Superior Court trial that while there might have been problems in the past with Hasidic children not being taught the provincial curriculum, the situation has changed.
A witness from the provincial education ministry told the court today that recent legislative changes have given the government much greater leverage to ensure school attendance laws are being respected.