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Los Angeles charter school says teachers who taught first graders about ‘genocide of Palestine’ will not return

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Los Angeles charter school that stirred controversy at the synagogue where it is housed after first-grade teachers taught lessons about “the genocide of Palestine” announced steps on Friday to “repair this harm.”

Two teachers have been removed from the school and the principal has been placed on leave at Citizens of the World Charter School-East Valley, announced Melissa Kaplan, the school network’s executive director, at a press conference held outside Adat Ari El synagogue.

Hye-Won Gehring, the school’s principal, had relayed complaints from her staff to the synagogue’s rabbi about Israeli flags that were hung up on the campus after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to Kaplan and Brian Schuldenfrei, Adat Ari El’s senior rabbi. Kaplan said Gehring would be going on a two-week leave to “focus on learning how to combat antisemitism and engage in sensitivity training to learn from this experience.”

Gehring had sent an email to Schuldenfrei on Oct. 16 asking how long the flags would be up, according to the rabbi. Kaplan called the question “insensitive and inappropriate,” and Schuldenfrei recounted that he had told Gehring her email was “offensive.”

“I told the principal that inquiring when our flags were coming down was like asking someone on Sept. 11 to take down their American flags just a few days later. It is painfully insensitive,” Schuldenfrei said during the press conference. He added that the principal had apologized to him, but that “this was not the end of the issue.”

Adat Ari El lined its outdoor courtyard with Israeli flags following the Oct. 7 attack. (Jacob Gurvis)

Gehring made a brief statement at the press conference.

“I am deeply apologetic for my insensitive questions to Rabbi Schuldenfrei and how I mishandled this important set of events,” Gehring said. “I did not understand the impact of my actions, and I am committed to creating a safe environment for all of my students, including my Jewish students, staff and families.”

Kaplan, who was not made available to reporters after the press conference, acknowledged the “pain and distress” that many in the Jewish community are experiencing, and said she “deeply apologize[s] for these missteps” on behalf of her staff.

“CWC unequivocally condemns the social media posts by our staff members, including the use of the word ‘genocide’ to describe Israel’s actions,” Kaplan said. “CWC unequivocally condemns the disturbing suggestion that Jews should leave the region, and we unequivocally condemn any lesson that creates bias or fear among our students.”

Kaplan added that the findings of the investigation would be kept confidential, but that the community will receive updates as needed, and that the outcome of the process would inform any further consequences from this episode. She also said that CWC is coordinating with the Anti-Defamation League to train its leadership and staff.

During his remarks, Schuldenfrei shared the sequence of events that occurred at the school, saying that he hopes the incident can be “an educational moment.”

Schuldenfrei questioned why the content of the lessons was not reviewed, saying that the teachers “weaponized their role as educators to indoctrinate the youngest of children with a radical and hateful agenda.”

“We know what happens when a blind eye is turned to such hatred, and we will not cower in the corner while our campus and community is defiled,” Schuldenfrei said.

Schuldenfrei also referenced teshuvah, the Jewish idea of repentance, adding that he finds it “heartening to see Citizens of the World take these first steps,” and he reiterated his synagogue’s commitment to working with the school “to ensure that this is a learning moment for everyone.”

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Schuldenfrei acknowledged that is it rare for synagogues to call press conferences — an indication, he said, that “we’re living in rare times where we feel, unlike any other time since the Holocaust, we feel the pressure of this pernicious antisemitism. And we also feel for something like that to occur in our own backyard, we felt that we couldn’t simply stand by.”

Schuldenfrei said he is comfortable with the first steps the school is taking and hopes his community is, too. He also said he hopes this debacle does not dissuade future collaborations between Jewish and non-Jewish groups. He noted that his synagogue offers its space to church groups, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other non-Jewish events.

“We as Jews are proud Americans, and here at Adat Ari El, one of the holiest endeavors we engage is working with non-Jews,” he said. “We want this to specifically be a home to Jews, but we want this to be a campus that is of service to all of humanity.”

The final speaker at the press conference was Nick Melvoin, a school board member for the Los Angeles Unified School District and a Democratic candidate for Congress who is running for the district that Adam Schiff currently represents. (Schiff is running for a Senate seat that has a primary vote in March.) Melvoin commended the school for its efforts to respond to the incident and added that he will be bringing a policy package to the district’s board of education to address concerns of bias and antisemitism.

Melvoin said he would push for a comprehensive definition of antisemitism; a thorough review of curriculum to ensure that there is no bias; and the inclusion of Jewish experiences and antisemitism in diversity, equity and inclusion frameworks; and funding for students to visit Holocaust museums.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

The post Los Angeles charter school says teachers who taught first graders about ‘genocide of Palestine’ will not return appeared first on The Forward.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world. pic.twitter.com/fqTGVqMdDu

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

The post Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

The post Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

The post U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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