Jewish synagogue teacher sues after being fired over anti-Zionist blog post


LONDON: A teacher who was fired from a job at a Jewish school after posting critical comments about Zionism and Israel on her personal blog has filed a complaint against the school, alleging she was violating labor laws.

Jessie Sander, 26, had worked at Westchester Reform Temple School in Scarsdale, New York, for 15 days before being fired last July.

Warren Haber, the synagogue’s president, said at the time that he “made this decision to terminate after careful consideration and in accordance with the religious mission of WRT.”

But Sander, who is Jewish, said her firing is a violation of labor laws that prevent employers from controlling how employees use their time when they are not at work.

Her lawsuit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Westchester, accuses the school of violating labor laws by firing her “due to her lawful unpaid recreational activity, outside of working hours, away from the employer’s premises and without the use of the employer’s equipment”. or other property. She seeks reinstatement plus compensatory damages.

She believes she was fired for her critical views on Zionism and Israel, as expressed in a previous blog post seen by her employers. Sander said when her employers came across the message, she was called in for questioning.

Rabbi David E. Levy asked if she supported the Palestinian faction of Hamas and what she meant by calling herself an anti-Zionist.

She told The New York Times that he agreed with much of what she said during the interrogation and praised her as a good role model for students. But a week later, she was fired.

When she asked why, Eli Kornreich, the temple’s executive director, told her, “It’s just not a good choice.”

Sander said: “At the previous meeting I was like, ‘Wow, here’s a manager who understands and said, ‘Nobody should fire you for your political beliefs’, then at the next meeting it was:” Oh, except for me’.”

The temple defended its dismissal on the grounds that the synagogue’s work is based on the principle of Clal Yisrael, which calls for ‘strengthening our commitment to Israel and the Jewish people of all lands and working to establish understanding and community between the various expressions of Judaism”. .”

But previous WRT rabbis have expressed critical views of Israel. One, Rabbi Jonathan Blake, criticized “extremists, cynical politicians and wealthy patrons” in Israel for promoting “a grandiose vision of Jewish totalitarianism in the biblical Holy Land.”

Unlike Sander, however, they refrained from questioning Israel’s right to exist and from decoupling Zionism entirely from Jewish identity.

In his blog post, Sander wrote, “We reject the idea that Zionism is a value of Judaism. Zionism is not the equivalent or a necessary component of Jewish identity. To confuse Zionism with Judaism is not only inaccurate but dangerous. »

She continued, “In fact, support for Israel often hides deeply anti-Semitic views, as seen in some pro-Israel evangelical Christian groups.

She also criticized a common justification for Israel’s existence: that it provides a homeland for the long-persecuted Jewish people.

“Anti-Semitism (and white supremacy) does not disappear with the existence of Israel – Israel only appeases us against revolution by giving the Jewish people hope that there is a safe haven from anti-Semitism distracting us from the struggle that all marginalized groups must fight together,” says Sandre. “As American Jews, we demand an end to US funding of the Palestinian genocide.”

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