In a sharply-worded letter to Ruth Lacey, Principal of Beacon High School in Manhattan, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), questioned whether the school was “honoring humanity, or barbarism.” This came after the school held a moment of silence for “Palestinians killed in Gaza,” which some parents defended as teaching students to “honor each person’s humanity.”
The CJV, representing over 1000 traditional rabbis, wrote that “85% of those killed were members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations” committed to killing Jews in Israel and elsewhere, “as proudly stated by leaders within those groups.” It then asked rhetorically if the school had held moments of silence for victims killed in a long list of terrorist atrocities during recent years: the 23 school shootings in 2018 to date, domestic attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando and Manhattan itself, as well as terrorism around the world — including the 65 Israelis killed “by other members of the same organizations whose recent losses you memorialized.”
Deputy Press Secretary Douglas Cohen of the NYC Department of Education reportedly said that “we encourage schools to provide inclusive environments where students are able to respectfully discuss current events.” The CJV responded that with its “moment of silence” for dead terrorists, the school had done quite the opposite.
“On the contrary, school officials have placed themselves in a dangerous position,” said Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Managing Director of the CJV. “Given the proven correlation between ‘anti-Israel’ activities such as this one and open Antisemitism, the school has created a hostile environment for its Jewish students, and even opened itself to a claim of liability should anything transpire. You could ask ‘what were they thinking?’, but when it comes to Israel, people too often fail to think.”
The letter concluded that “if you truly wish to teach students to engage with the world and honor humanity, there are better ways.” Although the letter ended with a request for an “earliest reply” and was delivered Tuesday, Principal Lacey provided no response to the CJV as of two days later.