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June 14, 2019

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 14, 2019 By Jackson Richman (JNS)--An Illinois school district is under fire for a course offered to teachers titled "Teaching Palestine." The Niles Township High School District 219 serves Lin- colnwood and parts of Morton Grove, Niles and Skokie in Cook County, home to Chi- cago. There are an estimated 291,800 Jews in Illinois with most of them living in the Chicagoland area The district consists of Niles North High School and Niles West High School. The lesson, according to the course description obtained by JNS, "brings together critical educators who want to teach about Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle." Objectives include develop- ing "a deeper understanding of the history and current political context of the Is- raeli occupation of Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle," examining and ana- lyzing "existing curriculum on Palestine, the Palestinian liberation struggle and Israel." Goals also include discuss- ing "concrete strategies for how to respond to Zionist professional developments and curricula or when par- ents/staff/others object to anti-Zionist curriculum," developing grade appropriate scope and sequence for teach- ing Palestine" and making "curriculum connections between Palestine and issues affecting our students, such as: state/police violence, the struggle for racial justice in the U.S settler colonialism in Palestine and the U.S access to education for historically marginalized youth." Information from organi- zations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, a prominent anti- Israel group nationwide, is used in the course. "We have long seen a Pales- tinianization of the academy this bias has been steadily spreading into high-schools and teacher trainings like the one in the Niles Township High School District 219," Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told JNS. "All of this exemplifies the overt lack of context that at times goes into historical revisionism ignoring the rich history of the Middle East and ensures that students of all ages get a myopic view rather than a full historical understanding that including history, culture and theology." 'One-sided propaganda' Pro-Israel groups, includ- ing the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAM- ERA), criticized the course. "It is to justify the anti- Semitic rhetoric from terror- ist Hamas and the veneration of mass murderers of Jews by the Palestinian Authority. It is to demonize and delegitimize Zionism and supporters of the lone Jewish state, many of whose families reside in your school district," said Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. Cooper compared the con- tent for the teachers to that of textbooks for Arabs from the United Nations. "It is also beyond belief that at a time when the United States government has stopped funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency because the organization's educational division does not adequately acknowledge the State of Israel and holds up terror- ists as role models for young students, thataschool district in Illinois would model similar curriculum," he said. CAMERA senior research analyst Steven Stotsky told JNS it is "deeply concerned with the promotion of anti- Israel propaganda in teacher- training courses that clearly aim to indoctrinate students." "Instances of anti-Israel messages being pushed into schools appear to be on the rise," he continued. "The Jew- ish community, all citizens, school administrators and legislators need to wake up and stop those who exploit our educational system to promote bigotry and one- sided messaging against the world's only Jewish state." StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS, "School districts should encourage critical thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than promoting indoctrina- tion like this course does. The Niles Township High School District 219 should replace Teaching Palestine with pro- fessional development that will offer genuine educational tools that encourage co- existence and allow student inquiry into the issue, rather than one-sided propaganda." "For decades now, many of us have been trying to expose the dehumanization of Jews, and the constant and steady incitement to hate and to kill Jews that has been taught in Palestinian Authority textbooks and schools, and throughout much of the Arab world," Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endow- ment for Middle East truth, told JNS. "Unfortunately, it has now reached our very own shores. To glorify the killing of innocent civilians is against everything that a Western civil society should condone, let alone educate as a virtue to pass on to our children." Niles Township High School District 219 did not respond to a request for comment. Editor's Note: Please see up- date JTA article "Chicago-area high school pulls support for teacher training on Palestine" by Ben Sales. The Niles Town- ship High School District 219 has withdrawn the course. -area By Ben Sales CHICAGO (JTA)--A high school district with a large Jewish population has with- drawn its recommendation of an optional training op- portunity for teachers called "Teaching Palestine" after local teachers, synagogues and national organizations protested. The training was one of several offered to high school teachers in a section of north suburban Chicago. One of the schools, Niles North 7634 1 81527 29436 High, is the primary high school serving Skokie, a local Jewish population center. "The course presented an extremely one-sided view of a very complex situation," said Rabbi Ari Hart of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Syna- gogue. By using the phrase "occupation of Palestine," he said, the course's language implied "that a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland is illegitimate." Offered by a group called Teachers for Social Justice, the course was open to "criti- 5892 9436 8751 cal educators who want to teach about Palestine and the Palestine liberation struggle," according to a May 22 email to teachers obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. It promised to teach both about how to develop curricula on Palestinian history, as well as how to counter objections from Zionists. The email said the course also said it would draw con- nections between Palestin- ian issues and race relations in the United States. The school district cover- ing the high schools, Niles Township 219, has with- drawn the course after some local rabbis raised alarms and some parents, staff and others objected. Two Ortho- dox synagogues in Skokie, Or Torah and Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, mobilized members to call the school to object. Hart said dozens of Skokie community members com- plained to the school. "When you talk about how to deal with students who believe in the right of a Jewish state to exist, when they are targeted in that way and presented as a problem to be dealt with, that makes students and faculty feel unsafe," he said. Hart also spoke Thursday with the district superin- tendent, Steven Isoye, and its director of equity, La Wanna Wells. Later that day, the district released a letter announcing the withdrawal of the recommendation for the course, and said it will work on a more rigorous set of standards for professional development courses. "We recognize that with- out multiple perspectives surrounding this topic, we created a sense of exclusion by including this offering," the letter said. "We will con- tinue to strive to create an equitable place of learning that allows each and every student to feel safe. We recognize the need to work collectively to educate each other on the cross-cultural, religious, political and socio- economic issues that impact our world." Teachers for Social Justice did not respond to a request for comment. But its web- site says the Chicago-based group views teaching as inherently political. Other courses the group is offer- ing this summer focus on racial justice in the United States and "US Imperialism's Impact on Honduras." "[W]e must recognize and accept our role as ei- ther confronting the social, political, and educational inequities within U.S. school settings, or continuing to reproduce the oppressions in our current society," its "About Us" page says. "We stand for confronting these inequities. Neutrality is not possible. We understand that teaching is a political act." An activist who took part in creating "Teaching Pales- tine," Lesley Williams, said that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is acknowl- edged by the international community, and that Pal- estinian students have said they do not feel that their perspectives are represented at school. "We were hearing from teachers and also from stu- dents that they didn't feel Palestine was being actively covered in the curriculum," said Williams, an activist with Chicago's chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. "It's not as though the existence of these human rights abuses or the existence of the oc- cupation is purely a partisan issue. These are facts that can't be denied." Teachers at Niles North said students and faculty have repeatedly heard anti- Israel messages at school programs. A teacher told JTA that multiple speakers who were brought to the school to discuss various topics ended up criticizing Israel for oppressing Palestinians. "There's an increasing amount of anti-Semitism events that have been hap- pening," said a teacher who asked to remain anonymous, so as not to be publicly identi- fied with the controversy. "I think that it's very concern- ing that this is kind of an insidious thing that's been increasing over the years." The school is diverse, teachers said, with its 2,000 students speaking approxi- mately 100 languages. It also has long had a large Jewish student population. But teachers said Israel was never an issue until this year. "It's a school that has everyone--Jews, Muslims, every denomination of Christian you can imag- ine," said Aaron Minkus, a history teacher and faculty sponsor of the Israel Club for students, which he said focuses mostly on cultural events. "It's a rainbow, it's the United Nations, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, I'll be honest, never reared its ugly head." To head off future issues of this kind, the district will be convening a working group of eight administrators and faculty over the summer "to establish a set of guidelines our schools will use to vet potential speakers before they come to our schools, as well as to vet potential professional development opportunities shared by the district," Jim Szczepaniak, the district's director of community relations, wrote in an email. Hart said the administra- tors sounded sincere in want- ing to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for their students. "I think schools should fo- cus on serving their students and on creating fair and equitable learning environ- ments for each and every one of their students," he said. "In the context of a class on world history, I would expect that educators are provided with a variety of viewpoints and with nuanced materials, and allow their students to be exposed to many different views and ideas." 457986123 932154678 681723945 176592384 328647519 549831267 From page IA and I express deep sorrow for the passing of the wife of the president, Nechama Rivlin," the prime minister said. Blue and White Party co- chairman Benny Gantz said the party is "bowing its head" in her memory. "Nechamawas awonderful woman, she faced difficulties with a smile and a model for all oflsrael," he said. "We are truly saddened by the loss of Nechama Rivlin who was like a mother to us all," the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said via the army's official Twitter account. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edel- stein offered his condolences to Rivlin on behalf of the parliament. "She was a special person; her bright and shining countenance touched every- one she encountered. She will be greatly missed," he said in a statement. Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called Rivlin a "woman of valor," who for many years "stood by her husband as he served the public with endless devotion and humility." Jewish Agency Chairman Issac Herzog also expressed his condolences, saying, "The Jewish Agency and Jews worldwide mourn First Lady Nechama Rivlin, who passed away today. She was involved in many social charities with love and modesty, opening the doors for Israelis and for the Jewish people. We embrace President Rivlin and family and share their grief." Nechama Rivlin was laid to rest on Wednesday at Mount Herzl, where a funeral will take place at the Gedolei HaUma ("Leaders of the Na- tion") section, and eulogies will be delivered. This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.