Good evening. My name is Michael Taubes and I am speaking here tonight as one of the senior rabbis of Teaneck, but also as somebody who has lived in this community since my parents moved to Teaneck when I was a year old in 1960. I have attended the Teaneck municipal parade on July 4th along Queen Anne Road for as far back as I can remember, and I recall as a kid watching parts of the annual Teaneck-Hackensack football game on Thanksgiving morning at the Teaneck High School field.
Like many others, I was therefore both shocked and sickened to hear that this very high school field is scheduled to be used tomorrow – during the school day, with the permission of school leadership – for an organized antisemitic rally. And let’s make no mistake about it and offer no mealy-mouthed apologies and excuses – that’s exactly what it is: an antisemitic rally. When the flier advertising the rally falsely and despicably describes the Israeli actions in Gaza as a “genocide,” actions launched in response to the savage slaughtering and butchering of over 1,200 innocent Israeli men, women and children of all ages in their homes and parks (and I spoke just last week to one of the volunteers who was there in the aftermath of the horrific October 7 attacks collecting body parts and wiping pools of blood off of floors and walls), that is as antisemitic an accusation as any of the blood libels of old, blood libels typically used to justify public mistreatment of and violence against Jews. And yet, that’s what the educational leadership of our town, the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education is sanctioning – on school grounds, during school time.
But in my Teaneck? My beloved township, where I grew up and later raised my own children? Who would have imagined such a thing? Who can imagine a similar protest offending any other social, ethnic or religious group in our diverse town being permitted in the school, during school hours. It would never be tolerated; it would never happen. And it can’t be allowed to happen now. Let us not hide behind “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression.” As loyal citizens of the United States of America, we have no issue with people protesting peacefully and civilly on behalf of whatever the cause, even people with whom we have strong, profound and deep differences. But not by making slanderous, hateful, antisemitic accusations in our schools and not during school hours, which implies the endorsement and indeed the encouragement of our school’s leadership. A school is no place for a blood libel.
Where are our educational leaders? Where is the guidance and direction which they are supposed to provide to our students? My heart breaks when I hear, as we did from these precious students this evening, that they are physically, verbally and emotionally taunted and abused for being Jews, and hence feel hated and scared in school. Exactly where are we? This is not Nazi Germany in the 1930s or the post World War II Soviet Union. This is Teaneck, New Jersey in the United States of America. Now, I know very well that, unfortunately, all sorts of teasing and bullying goes on among high school students all the time – I have taught in high schools myself for over 40 years. But it cannot go on with the approval of those in charge of their education! By officially allowing this vile demonstration during the school day and on the school premises, the Superintendent and the Board of Ed members are at least tacitly condoning this disgusting behavior. For shame – for shame! Do the safety and well-being of these students, and of Jewish staff members, matter? Do Jewish lives matter? Where is the leadership?
We are here this evening to implore the Superintendent of Schools and the Teaneck Board of Education to have the moral courage and fortitude to step up and dissociate themselves and our township schools from this modern-day blood libel and blatant antisemitism by rescinding permission to hold this rally during the school day on our high school’s campus, and by committing to work on behalf of the safety and well-being of all township students and staff. And if they won’t or can’t step up, then we call upon them to step down, to resign in disgrace for dereliction of duty, and make room for people with a better handle on how to educate and exhibit concern for all of our students.
As a people, we survived the blood libels of old, we survived Nazi Germany, and we survived the Soviet Union. And we will survive this. We will survive this. But right now, we want to survive it right here in our humble hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey, where we have always been and wish to remain comfortable. And so we cry out for educational and other leaders in our township who are committed to that goal for all township residents and ask those who are not to simply get out of the way for the greater good of the wonderful Teaneck community. Thank you very much and Am Yisrael Chai.
Rabbi Michael Taubes is the longtime rav of Teaneck’s Cong. Zichron Mordechai.