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American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten drew accusations of anti-Semitism after challenging Jewish Americans in a new interview.
The controversy came in response to an interview published in the Jerusalem Post Wednesday, in which Weingarten was quoted as describing “American Jews” as “now part of the ownership class” in response to a question about Jewish critics of the teachers’ union’s power and influence amid a coronavirus school reopening fight.
“Jews were immigrants from somewhere else, and they needed the right to have public education,” she said. “And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done. Both economic opportunity through the labor movement and an educational opportunity through public education were key for Jews to go from the working class to the ownership class.”
She continued, “What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it.”
David Benger, a Harvard Law research fellow, rewrote the interview’s headline as “Teacher Union Head Spews Antisemitic Vitriol” and called the remarks “disgraceful.”
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Newsweek deputy opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon called it “just blatant anti-Semitism on full display.”
In a message that Weingarten retweeted herself, Rabbi Jill Jacobs defended the union leader as “a proud Jew” committed to her faith.
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“This is a gross distortion of what Randi said,” Jacobs wrote in response to Ungar-Sargon’s assessment. “She was talking about her disappointment when Jews don’t support unions.”
The AFT shared a later tweet from Weingarten in response to a Fox News request for comment.
“Calling a rebbitzin anti-Semitic…really?” she wrote, using a term that means the wife of a rabbi. “My entire life is dedicated to promoting Jewish values like tikkun olam (repairing a broken world).”
The union announced Tuesday that a poll of its members found a “vast majority” of them had received the coronavirus vaccine and returned to the classroom.
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The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that 81% of AFT members were either vaccinated or had an appointment to get vaccinated. And 85% said their schools were opened on at least a part-time basis.
“Educators are rolling up their sleeves, not only to get vaccinated but to return to in-person schooling with the CDC’s safety guardrails in place,” Weingarten said in a statement on the poll findings.
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