Shouts of “Fire the Superintendent!”
On June 11, 2018, at a Newton, Massachusetts school committee meeting, parents and citizens vented their outrage at school officials over an all-day event at Newton North High School which featured several anti-Semitic films. The May 2 “Middle East Day” had no pro-Israel speakers. Instead, students watched films presented them by a group led by Ali Abunimah who runs the notoriously anti-Semitic Electronic Intifada website.
One film in particular, Ismail, raised the ire of the community, as it portrayed Israelis as Nazis. Ismail aped scenes of Nazi brutality in Schindler’s List where Nazis are rounding up Jews and force-marching them to their deaths. Ismail had a similar scene, but reversed the roles: actors playing IDF soldiers comported themselves just like the Nazis in Schlinder’s List (and in history), rounding up innocent, beautiful and frightened Palestinians, hitting them with their rifle butts as they cursed them to “hurry up!” Macht schnell! it would have been in German.
Meanwhile on that same evening in the Bronx, in what has been a widely-reported outburst, Jewish parents in Riverdale Country School led an emotional protest over a teacher who hectored Jewish students about Israel’s response to the recent events in Gaza. Parents were given a respectful hearing and promised a full investigation.
The Newton event is less well-known, but has a longer history and seems to be much more contentious. At the meeting, the parents were given cold stares and were met with stone silence. I was there, and along with 6 others, was permitted to address the school committee. What follows is a direct report.
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On June 11, in a leafy, heavily Jewish suburb of Boston, angry Jewish parents and citizens in Newton, Massachusetts confronted the city’s public school officials at a school committee meeting over the continued teaching of bias against Israel that has been the focus of controversy for more than five years.
Waving signs of “Fire [David] Fleishman!” and “Replace [Ruth] Goldman!”, around 70 angry citizens protested the mistreatment of the Jewish community by city officials the evening of June 11.
Ruth Goldman, Chair of the Committee, restricted discussion of the controversy to only 7 speakers from among those who came to protest the on-going defamation of Israel and Jews in Newton’s school rooms. More than 15 had signed up to speak.
When I spoke, I reminded the board that Mayor Ruthanne Fuller had promised the Jewish community “transparency” in what is being taught at the schools, but she has not delivered. This, after the school system was forced to remove from its curriculum the infamous Arab World Studies Notebook, which falsely taught students that Jews torture and murder Arab women in Israeli prisons; and after the School Superintendent David Fleishman had promised Jewish community leaders this past October that he would remove the schools’ entire World History section on the Middle East until scholarly, vetted material was found to replace it. Instead, I said, Fleishman broke that promise and continued to use material that was pro-Arab, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic.
I called the film, Ismail, a blood libel; I said, “the ‘Jew-as-Nazi’ lie is the ‘narrative’ that drives Jew-hatred around the world and here you are teaching this to our children.”
That very morning, one very liberal Jewish group — the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Boston — abandoned its 6-year-long denial and “hands-off” posture in this dispute and joined Boston’s ADL to send a harshly-worded letter to Superintendent Fleishman demanding to know precisely what happened on May 2 and what was taught to the student assembly, and how it happened.
Tom Mountain, Chairman of the Newton Republican Committee and father of a student in the Newton school system, thundered his disgust at the School Committee’s betrayal of the schools’ Jewish students, and the Jewish community in general. He directly demanded the resignation of Superintendent Fleishman and asked, rather loudly, what sort of Jew could stonewall efforts to protect teenagers, mostly Jewish, from being taught rabid anti-Jewish propaganda.
Aaron Shneider, a new college graduate and alumnus of the Newton school system himself, railed at the committee, spoke of how the system had betrayed him, and said that if everyone wants to speak of “balance,” then pro-Muslim and anti-Israel is hardly “balance” in educational presentation.
Margot Einstein, a 94-year-old resident of Newton — and one of the original members of the group of concerned citizens which first brought the issue of anti-Jewish curricula to the attention of the school authorities in 2011 — spoke to the committee directly while holding up a hand-made sign which read, “Transparency Yes! Fleishman — No.” Face to face with Fleishman and the chair of the committee Ruth Goldman, with a smile, she called for the firing and replacement of both to the riotous cheers of the audience.
The Committee, as in the past, refused to respond to any of the speakers, and when Ruth Goldman’s seventh permitted speaker was through, Goldman called for the next topic.
We withdrew from the meeting room and gathered outside to discuss and strategize. Several grass roots anti-indoctrination groups are planning to petition the School Committee for a special meeting to openly address their concerns. For background on the issue, see CAMERA’s scholarly study of the biased curriculum and/or watch a short documentary.