February 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
February 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

At Teaneck High School, Facts Don’t Matter, But ‘First Amendment Freedoms’ Do

In this upside-down world, we recently saw an inexplicable contortion of American values at the Teaneck Board of Education. In this scenario, those elected to represent us sat and listened politely as a known antisemite walked up to the microphone and espoused insane lies about Jews conducting genocide in the Caribbean for 400 years and concluded with, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free—by any (expletive deleted) means necessary.” Then, seated from the same perch, an elected member of the Board of Education shouted the same expletive at a local rabbi, who simply wanted to know if he would get a chance to share his views.

As hundreds had turned up to speak both for and against Teaneck High School’s walkout for Palestine that took place November 29, the Teaneck Board of Ed on December 13 celebrated its students who walked out for exercising their right to freedom of speech, and then listened politely as Rick Whilby, a speaker at the walkout and a known Englewood-based agitator who espouses antisemitic conspiracy theories, was allowed to speak uninterrupted for two of his allotted three minutes, before his microphone was turned off and he was escorted outside by the Teaneck Police Department. As he left, his words were, quite literally, applauded by many in the room.

As a result of the incident, Sebastian Rodriguez, the outgoing chairman of the Board of Education, told the assembled that it had just been illustrated that it was impossible for the group to speak in a dignified manner, and that no one else would be allowed to speak about the walkout. When one of our community’s rabbis, a veteran teacher, school principal and a 40-year resident of Teaneck, approached the Board of Education’s table in the following moments to ask them where or if he could send his comments, he was told to “get the (expletive deleted) away from the table.”

These are the elected members who run our Teaneck Board of Education, which has provided a forum for some of the most current and gross displays of hate that the town has seen in decades. Foul words roll off their tongues like nothing, with no idea of the communal stature of the one they are cursing, and what’s more, they don’t care.

When people curse and prevent local rabbis from speaking, while honoring antisemites by allowing them to spread actual lies, we have to take the message. It’s not like it’s being provided in code.

The Teaneck Board of Education itself was clearly proud—could it possibly have been even “exhilarated?”—to see its students parroting Hamas ideology at a walkout, pleased that their students were “standing up” for Palestinian rights, even as they ignored the basic fact that Jews were violently attacked, maimed, dismembered, murdered, raped and taken hostage on October 7.

It should also be said that the right to free speech does not extend to threats and the inciting of violence through hate speech. Even as these children gaslight their fellow Jewish students by maintaining that “From the river to the sea” is not a chant of violence, they are still excluding and harassing Jews by using this well known antisemitic trope that expresses a desire to remove Jews from the region. They maintain it is not hate speech, which we dispute.

And then the board wonders why many of us don’t send our children to their schools.

The one glimmer of good news in this mess is that, for several of the board members, this was their last time on the dais. The board’s president, Rodriguez, did not seek reelection, and so was free to show his true colors at this last meeting. We hope that the three incoming members of the Board of Education—Gerald Kirschenbaum, David Gruber and James Wolff—will be among those working intensively to repair the damage that the previous board created.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles