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Jewish families blast Minneapolis teacher union statement on Israel as "dangerous to our children"

War in the Middle East creating controversy in the classroom
War in the Middle East creating controversy in the classroom 03:04

MINNEAPOLIS — The Israel-Hamas war continues to hit home in Minnesota, as controversy has erupted over a statement posted this week by the Minneapolis Public Schools' teachers union.

"MFT mourns the loss of innocent life in Israel and occupied Palestine," Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 wrote in its "Israel-Palestine Resolution" that was posted November 14. "We categorically reject violence against all civilians whether Israeli or Palestinian. We therefore call for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and to de-escalate the conflict."

The statement goes on to condemn what it calls "the system of Israeli occupation and apartheid," and also endorsed a boycott of the Jewish state.

Jewish families and teachers, however, are expressing both outrage and worry about the war seeping into the classroom.

"I don't see them commenting on genocides happening in Yemen or Libya or Sudan or other places throughout the world," Elly Fine-Sternberg, whose three children attend MPS schools, told WCCO News. "Personally I was really hurt, I was really angry, I was really sad."

Fine-Sternberg's families joined more than a dozen others Friday in handing a letter to every teacher and administrator at her children's elementary school. The letter urges them to denounce MFT's statement, which they say ignores the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7, fails to mention the 240 hostages still held in Gaza, and engages in rhetoric they believe could lead to bullying, harassment and discrimination in the classroom.

"To me this rhetoric is very dangerous because these words are putting fuel to the fire to leading to more antisemitism and putting our children at risk," she added.

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Jeremy Cohen, another MPS parent, echoed that sentiment and claimed the MFT statement "violates" a teacher's obligation to protect all students.

"I believe the teacher's union has now forced the hand of every teacher to denounce this and say this is wrong, and if they don't, and if they don't, or they stay silent. That's now a classroom my child can be in because it is not a safe environment for my child.

Some Jewish teachers at Minneapolis schools, along with members of the union, also shared similar worries with WCCO. They all refused to speak on the record, with many saying they were nervous of retaliation.

MFT, as well as its parent union Education Minnesota, were either unable or unwilling to respond to WCCO's questions.

Fine-Sternberg said she's not ready to pull her children out of Minneapolis schools yet. She said she'd rather use this as a learning opportunity for teachers, and a great lesson for students as well.

"I would love to see the district take action and educating the educators better on antisemitism and the Holocaust, and understanding that words like these are very powerful and they're also very dangerous."

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