April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Hundreds Support Optional Livingston High School Program About Oct. 7

Several Muslim groups “postponed” their planned protest outside an optional program for Livingston High School students about the October 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel, claiming they did not feel safe in the area.

The cancellation came a day after hundreds of pro-Israel residents in Livingston attended a school board meeting to show their support for the after-hours, voluntary program where survivors of the October 7 attacks were speaking. Only a small number of people at the meeting, primarily people from out of town, opposed the program.

There was significant police presence during the February 27 Board of Education meeting. Yet in a social media post, organizers of the planned protest claimed that “Zionist members of the community demonstrated incredibly violent intimidation tactics at the Board of Ed meeting that were vicious and borderline assaulting.”

Organizers of the planned protest included Jewish Voice for Peace Northern New Jersey; Teaching While Muslim; West Orange for Palestine; and CAIR-NJ, whose parent organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has a history of antisemitism, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The student program went on as scheduled with police presence, as well as a group of pro-Israel supporters who stood outside waving Israel flags.

During the school board meeting, superintendent Matthew Block recounted his brief trip to Israel and the Gaza border on an educational mission sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. He made clear he saw destruction on both sides of the border during his 40-hour visit.

He said that one of the kibbutzim he visited in the south of Israel were places that were “frozen in time,” bicycles and toys were strewn across lawns, and sukkot were still standing from the holiday, which ended months ago.

“People were simply driven from their homes,” Block said. “It was silent and quiet and there were no people there.”

Other kibbutzim, he said, were scenes of “total destruction,” with homes burnt to the ground and photos of the people who once lived there tacked on to the remaining structures.

As for Gaza, which was less than a mile away, Block said, “we looked through binoculars and could see Gaza City. [I] saw a city destroyed by war and clearly there were people that lived in those buildings that were blown out … there is no doubt that there are people suffering in Gaza.”

Noting that he saw the trip as an educational and learning opportunity, Block said he was saddened to know that in some ways it caused conflict.

Some in attendance, primarily people who do not live in Livingston, spoke out against Block’s trip as well as the planned February 28 program, which they claimed was propaganda for the Jewish State.

One speaker, Naomi from Newark, said she came to speak for the “voiceless and underrepresented” and that “racism is pushing Palestinians out of their homeland.”

A representative from a “Muslim professional organization” told the school board, “Your residents are scared to speak to their own board” and claimed that the “children behind me … have intimidated me because of my own faith.”

Those “children” included Jewish students from Livingston schools who wanted to ensure they would get to hear testimony from the survivors of the October 7 massacre.

While the school board decided to call an end to the public address part of the evening at 11:15, a number of Jewish residents had a chance to have their say.

One woman spoke about her daughter, a Livingston High School graduate, who lived in Kibbutz Erez but whose community was saved from terrorists by “some miracle.”

Rabbi James Proops of Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center told the board members that when the community heard there was going to be this “very powerful and meaningful program [for Livingston High School students] … we were all so pleased and proud.

“Then when word spread that people were coming from mainly outside Livingston, attempting to derail this program,” he said, adding that the local community wanted to come and express their thanks for sending superintendent Block to Israel. “You have our support and I can’t wait to hear about the success of tomorrow’s meaningful and impactful program,” Rabbi Proops said.

Rachel Ginsberg, an educator for over 15 years, stressed the need to offer programs that help students “develop their moral compass, which will help them navigate the complexities of their lives, their relationships and our American and global society.

“The event planned for tomorrow [for Livingston High School] is integral to the work of helping students develop their moral compass,” Ginsberg said. “They must hear survivors’ stories, feel their pain, experience their devastation with them, and they must understand the difference between right and wrong. There is no greater or more clear-cut example of this good versus evil paradigm than the events of October 7, except for the Holocaust.”

Another resident, Stuart Wainberg, said, “We know it’s only a matter of time before the anti-Israel, anti-U.S., anti-democracy, Jew-hating voices rise up and [say] October 7 never happened” and was fabricated by Israel and its supporters. “For this reason, we must bear witness. We must educate ourselves, educate our children. … The truth about October 7 begins right here with education. Am Yisrael Chai.”

Faygie Holt is an award-winning journalist, whose articles have been published worldwide and translated into several different languages. She is also the author of two middle-grade book series for Jewish children, “The Achdus Club” and “Layla’s Diaries,” both available from Menucha Publishers. A third series is set to be released in 2024. Learn more at Faygieholt.com.

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