A Jewish teachers’ union leader thinks Jewish parents who want to send their kids back to school are betraying their Talmudic heritage. An opponent thinks that’s an anti-Semitic argument. Now they’re both being hammered online.
Teachers in Los Angeles have fiercely resisted a return to in-person learning, even as their counterparts across the country came around to the idea of returning to work. Before the LA educators finally agreed last month to return to work, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten stuck up for them in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, and accused Jewish parents pushing for a return to the classroom of betraying their ancestors. The interview was published on Wednesday.
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“American Jews are now part of the ownership class,” Weingarten, who is also Jewish, told the Post, arguing that union membership plus public education gave Jewish immigrants the chance to better themselves after they arrived in the US. Parents pushing for a return to classroom instruction, she argued, are “privileged,” and want “to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it.”
Weingarten didn’t make it clear how Jewish parents who want their children back in school are taking opportunities away from less fortunate groups of immigrants, but long before she was questioned on her argument, she was accused of anti-Semitism.
Newsweek opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon claimed that by questioning Jewish parents, Weingarten was putting her “blatant anti-Semitism on full display.”
Asked why teachers are still not going back to school, president of the teachers union Randi Weingarten blamed Jews, calling them part of “the ownership class [who] want to take that ladder of opportunity away.” Just blatant anti-Semitism on full display.https://t.co/XZAAa4Xlr1pic.twitter.com/TT7fYkDd9W
— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) April 7, 2021
Ungar-Sargon’s audience was having none of it, and rubbished her anti-Semitism accusations.
I think that is a pretty wild distortion of the context.Weingarten, who is Jewish, was being interviewed by the JTA so she addressed herself specifically to her Jewish critics on the assumption that’s what the audience for the interview is. https://t.co/Yt5970fdrA
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 7, 2021
the fact that Weingarten is Jewish and was speaking to a Jewish outlet has been ommitted from this narrative, must have been an oversight! https://t.co/Tlcln8L1Ij
— Jack Mirkinson (@jackmirkinson) April 7, 2021
Jewish leader is asked to address Jewish community and expresses opinion different to Batya Ungar-SargonBatya: Is this antisemitism? https://t.co/d0rl8qhviq
— North London Deli Class (@Yael_Shafritz) April 7, 2021
As the commenters pointed out, Weingarten wasn’t “blaming the Jews” in the same way that Adolf Hitler blamed them for Germany’s woes. She was speaking as a Jewish woman, to a Jewish publication, addressing specifically the concerns of the Jewish community.
Others thought that Ungar-Sargon missed the mark, and that Weingarten’s argument was wrong from the outset. “If we wanted to take the ladder away we’d all support the unionized teachers who refuse to do their job,” one commenter wrote.
This is repugnant on so many levels. But the main one for me is the idea that if you want public schools to re-open, you’re a racist. And the whole idea of the “ownership class” as if Jews are all the same.
— Russell Roberts (@EconTalker) April 7, 2021
The person literally denying kids an education is blaming the people who want them to go back to work for “taking the ladder of opportunity away”
— Irish Voluntaryist (@IrishVoluntary1) April 7, 2021
As Weingarten, Ungar-Sargon, and hordes of commenters battled it out online, children across Los Angeles County remained at home. United Teachers Los Angeles employees will begin teaching again this month, but only after its members lobbied successfully for a $500 per month childcare stipend. The same union was sued by parents at the beginning of the month for allegedly failing in its duty to students, after it made a return to the classroom last year conditional on dramatically reduced hours, and on the city passing a wishlist of left-wing policies, including defunding the police, creating single-payer healthcare, and addressing “systemic racism.”
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