An anti-Zionist teacher was fired from the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York, and is now suing the institution. Religious organizations should support the Reform Temple in this lawsuit.
Jessie Sander wrote an article in May 2021 in which she “call[ed] for American Jewish institutions to revisit their educational philosophy and curriculum about Palestine and its history,” and that American Jews must stop their “racist practices and beliefs” and support of Israel (which she spelled each time with a lower case “i”) in its “settler-colonial violence” and “genocide in Palestine.” She added that “israel actively trains the actors of our military state to enact violence against our Black and Brown siblings,” portraying Israel as committing racist violence both in Israel and the United States.
A few weeks later she was hired as a Hebrew teacher at the Westchester Reform Temple before the school was aware of her writings. Once the administration found out about it, she was questioned and then dismissed. She is now suing the school for reinstatement plus compensatory damages.
The New York Times covered the story in its typical anti-Israel jaundiced fashion. It noted that Sander is like many younger American Jews, who are not emotionally attached to Israel, as it cited a poll which found that 25 percent of Jews believed Israel to be an “apartheid state” and 22 percent said it was “committing genocide against the Palestinians.”
Those aren’t “beliefs” any more than Holocaust denial is a belief. They are simply wrong. When 25 percent of a class gets a question wrong on an exam, we don’t reorient the narrative to accommodate the incorrect.
Schools must be able to evaluate the teachers they hire and whether they pose a threat to the students and mission of the institution. This teacher was not simply stating that she was concerned about Palestinian self-determination but sought to change the “educational philosophy and curriculum” with her false impressions about the state of Palestinian “genocide.” Together with her deliberate refusal to capitalize the state of Israel, the institution was rightly concerned about what she was going to teach in her classes.
While liberal anti-Zionists like Peter Beinart may run to defend this teacher, it is important for other religious denominations – especially the Orthodox – to rally to the side of the Reform Temple.
Jewish institutions have long hired a variety of people from different backgrounds. Yeshiva University, the flagship Jewish university in the United States, hires many non-Jewish faculty. Jewish Day Schools hire people with a range of political views from conservative to progressive.
But they do not hire someone who seeks to instill a false narrative into the cirriculum.
Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America and other Orthodox organizations do not always have an opportunity to bond with the Reform movement. These mission-driven groups – as well as non-Jewish ones – should rally to support the Westchester Reform Temple in the suit by an anti-Israel extremist, in an important defense of their religious rights.