Shouts of “Fire the Superintendent!”
Angry parents and citizens dominated the first hour of a scheduled Newton Public School board meeting on Monday night, in an effort to show their disgust and rage at the continued teaching of bias against Israel that has been the focus of controversy in this leafy, heavily Jewish suburb for more than 5 years.
Waving signs of “Fire Fleishman!” and “Replace 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.
Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, 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 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, Jacobs said, Fleishman broke that promise and continued to use material that was pro-Arab, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic.
Most of the anger was directed at a May 2 all-day event at Newton North High School called Middle East Day, during which Electronic Intifada proprietor Ali Abunimah’s non-profit group screened several anti-Semitic films for the Newton North students. One film, Ismail, grotesquely aped the gruesome scenes of Nazi barbarism in Schindler’s List, except with actors playing Jewish soldiers as the Nazis, and Palestinians as the Jews. “This blood libel,” said Jacobs, “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) — abandoned its six-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 dismissal 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 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 committee in 2011 — spoke to the committee 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.
The grass roots anti-indoctrination groups are planning to petition the School Committee for a special meeting to openly address their concerns.