(JTA) — A quote by the Nobel Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was briefly removed from the walls of a Philadelphia-area high school, reportedly because it violated the school’s policy on “neutrality.”
On Wednesday a principal of a high school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, ordered the school librarian to take down four posters with the Wiesel quote. The quote came from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel acceptance speech and reads: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
That ran afoul of a controversial new district policy banning teachers from engaging in “advocacy activities” or displaying any signs or symbols of “any partisan, political, or social policy issue.”
“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” the librarian, Matt Pecic, told local outlets. His daughter was the one who had originally emailed him the quote, saying it reminded her of him.
The district allowed Central Bucks High School South to put the posters back up the next day and issued a statement highlighting that Wiesel’s memoir “Night” is a regular part of its curriculum. The district also apologized “for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”
“We regret that the decision was made to remove” the posters, the district said. The statement added that the librarian “was asked by the administration to present the quote in conjunction with Mr. Wiesel’s book in order to promote educational inquiry and student interest in reading the novel, or to take it down.”
The incident was the latest example of how Jewish material, particularly Holocaust scholarship, has been swept up in larger right-wing attacks on public schools. Last year a Tennessee school board removed Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” from its curriculum citing a nude illustration and profanity that appear in the book.
Several Missouri schools have removed Holocaust history books for children fearing retribution from a new state law, and schools in Florida have removed a picture book about a Jewish family with two dads and a package of diversity-themed books, including one about Shabbat. A public school district in Texas also briefly removed a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, while legislators in multiple states have suggested instructors should remain “impartial” on issues including Nazis.
The origins of the Bucks County dust-up are similar to many of these cases. The district’s new “neutrality” law was passed by a board that includes several recently elected far-right candidates. Concerns over “critical race theory” and LGBTQ identity in public schools have fueled many such candidates to run for school boards nationwide.
The decision by the Bucks County board to pass their own “neutrality” policy earlier this month has earned it the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as helped to prompt a federal investigation into the district.
“This type of bigotry has become far too normalized in my community,” Lela Casey, a Jewish parent in the district, wrote in a first-person account about the poster removal on Jewish Telegraphic Agency sister site Kveller.
“This is exactly the type of censorship we feared would be the consequence of an overbroad and harmful policy,” Andrew Goretsky, regional director of the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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