June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rabbi Daniel Fridman, Rabbi, Jewish Center of Teaneck

Tonight, we Jews proudly celebrate the seventh night of Chanukah, the festival of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty for our deliverance from a supposedly enlightened culture that brutalized our people.

In the words of Maimonides, “In the era of the Second Temple, the Greek kingdom issued decrees against the Jewish people, to nullify their faith,refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. They extended their hands against their property and their daughters; they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within, and made the sacraments impure.The Jews suffered …for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them….The Hasmoneans appointed a king… and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple.”

The restoration of Jewish sovereignty is, as such, a primary cause for our celebration during Chanukah. For two thousand years following the destruction of the Temple, and cessation of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, Jews suffered repeated exile, crusades, inquisition, pogroms, and blood libels, all of which culminated in the worst genocide in human history, the Holocaust, during which six million Jews were mercilessly slaughtered, including scores of my own family.

In the shadow of the Holocaust, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of the partition plan, to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state.

This vote was immediately repudiated by all of the fledgling state’s neighbors, and in the ensuing war, one percent of Israel’s population was killed, but a state was born.

And, despite many wars since then, and ceaseless terror, there had not been a single pogrom against the Jewish people since the founding of this state. Until October 7th.

On November 29th, 2023, exactly seventy six to the date when the world recognized the right of the Jewish people to self determination, this Board of Education chose to allow a march, on school grounds, during school hours, which explicitly called for the destruction of that Jewish state, from the River to the Sea.

This was deeply ironic, not only in light of the date of this march on the anniversary of the date upon which the United Nations recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state, but on account of its being advertised as a march protesting genocide.

This outrageous, antisemitic canard belongs in the annals of the blood libels that were used for thousands of years to justify the brutal murder, rape, and maiming of Jews. For, if one truly believes that a genocide is occuring, isn’t it necessary to oppose the worst of all human crimes ‘by any means necessary?’

Predictably, the “peaceful” march on November 29th included distribution of leaflets calling for resistance by any means necessary, including violence.

On that day, large numbers of Jewish members of the Teaneck school district did not feel safe coming to school in this hateful environment. This should never have happened in the United States of America, and it must never happen again. This is not Nazi Germany.

Further, Jewish students have been harassed, bullied, and intimidated, especially since October 7th, in an environment in which pervasive fear of retaliation stifles further reporting of this harassment itself, generating a vicious cycle. How many times have I heard from Jewish members of the school community- children, parents, and others- that they do not feel safe coming forward with their fear?

We look forward to the day when a future Board of Education in Teaneck will ensure the education of its entire student body regarding antisemitism, the legitimate rights of Jewish self determination, the proper definition of genocide, and a respect for the dignity of all human beings based on the content of their character.

We hope that a future Board of Education will act to correct that which has transpired, and bring healing to this town which so desperately needs it.

A full and independent investigation of all of the events in this district surrounding October 7th is essential to ensure that the district will be able to properly carry out its educational mission going forward and restore public confidence, as well as to educate the nation as to what has gone so deeply wrong here in Teaneck. All of the children of Teaneck deserve nothing less.

Finally, I say to members of my own faith community, Jewish brothers and sisters. As we look forward to kindling the last Chanukah candle tomorrow, we are filled with faith- the pure and righteous faith of our ancestors who taught us to persevere.

We have no doubt whatsoever that, no matter what occurs, He who blessed us with sovereignty in our ancient Homeland after two thousand years of exile and sorrow, will never abandon His People. And we, His People, will never abandon Him, nor His sacred Land.

 

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