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Jewish Day Schools Are Accused of “Preaching Dual Loyalty To Israel”

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2020

A teacher who has taught at six Jewish Day Schools charges, in an article  
published in The Forward (Feb. 21, 2020), that these schools are “preaching  
dual loyalty to Israel.” The Forward notes that it “is publishing this  
article anonymously to protect the author, who currently teaches at a New  
York day school, from repercussions at work.”  
The author writes that, “A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found  
that nearly a quarter of Americans believe American Jews are more loyal to  
Israel than to the United States. Based on my experience teaching at a half  
dozen Jewish day schools over the past 12 years, I am shocked that the  
figure is so low.”  
When you walk into the building, the author notes, you “see Israeli flags  
hanging all over the place. Lessons are delivered in Hebrew—often at the  
obvious expense of student comprehension. Children sing Hatikvah in the  
morning with reinforced gusto.. Israeli soldiers regularly address the  
student body. Children wear kippot and hoodies emblazoned with the logo of  
the Israel Defense Forces.”  
Beyond this, he reports, “Zionism is messaged in these schools as the most  
essential attribute of our students’ identity... I’ve heard teachers or  
administrators say at assemblies things like ‘You don’t belong in America,’  
‘Israel is your country,’ and ‘The IDF are your soldiers.’ When Prime  
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress in opposition to the  
Iran nuclear deal, against the wishes of President Obama, the high school  
where I was working canceled classes to watch ‘our prime minister’ That’s a  
real quote.”  
At the six high schools where he taught, the author reports, Hatikvah was  
sung more often than the Star Spangled Banner and Israeli national holidays  
“are taught with a reverence and solemnity that outstrips what is accorded  
to religious or American ones... Veterans Day was never discussed but Yom  
Hazikavon, Israel’s Memorial Day, had special projects and schools receive  
grants from the Avi Chai Foundation which requires recipients to declare  
that they ‘seek to instill in our students an attachment to the State of  
Israel and its people.’”  
Zionism, not religion, is the essential curriculum in these day school,”  
argues the author: “There is no similar enthusiasm for the Torah in these  
schools. There was an understanding that we don’t push religion, that we  
must teach about religion in a detached way. So while we may teach what the  
Torah says, we are pretty much forbidden from actually saying the key point—  
that ‘as Jews we have to do what the Torah says.’ It’s like a very lame,  
extremely limited, comparative religion class.”  
The author concludes: “If our loyalty is, as it must be, to the United  
States, then it is time to think about how we show it in our Jewish day  
schools. We're really not being at all clear about it in our Jewish day  
schools. Until this is addressed in a meaningful way, we are in no position  
to feign shock at how it is perceived.” *

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