Jewish residents of a Massachusetts town are criticizing a public elementary school's decision to hang a Black Lives Matter flag a week after the organization condemned Israel for "settler colonialism."
Sprague Elementary School in Wellesley, Mass., live-streamed a ceremony on Wednesday to showcase the hanging of the Black Lives Matter flag. Teachers who spoke during the event said the flag "is a statement of support of human dignity, respect, and justice." In a May 17 tweet, Black Lives Matter announced that it stood "in solidarity with Palestinians" and Palestinian "liberation."
Black Lives Matter is one of several organizations that condemned Israel for defending itself against Hamas terror attacks in Gaza. Israeli counterstrikes against Hamas sparked a wave of anti-Semitic violence in the United States. Jewish men have been beaten in New York City and Las Vegas. In Miami, a group of Palestinian activists screamed "Free Palestine," "fuck you Jew," and "die Jew" at a Jewish family.
Rabbi Moshe Bleich of the Wellesley-Weston Chabad told the Washington Free Beacon that Sprague Elementary's move was poorly timed.
"Black Lives Matter came out with their statement last week, and there's an actual war where one side is threatening to annihilate the Jewish people," Bleich said. "And as we've seen over the last week to ten days, there are physical attacks against Jewish people in Miami, Phoenix, New York. … It's a really bad time to put out a Black Lives Matter flag at a public school."
Sprague Elementary School said the flag hanging was not a political statement. During the ceremony, however, one educator appeared in front of a shelf that displayed a children's book about Vice President Kamala Harris and her sister. Other teachers spoke in front of a poster that said "what it means to be woke."
Black Lives Matter has a history of condemning Israel. Leaders of the movement traveled to Israel in December 2014 to "connect" with Palestinian activists "living under Israeli occupation." Patrisse Cullors, a cofounder of Black Lives Matter, said that activist groups "can benefit greatly" by learning about "the Palestinian struggle."
"This is an apartheid state," Cullors, referring to Israel, told Ebony at the time. "We can't deny that and if we do deny it we are apart of the Zionist violence."
The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee thanked Black Lives Matter for standing in "solidarity" with Palestinians in a reply to its May 17 tweet. Black Lives Matter and the BDS movement are "united" through their "struggles against racism, white supremacy and for a just world," according to the tweet. BDS seeks to punish the Jewish state through economic pressure.
Wellesley, a town of 30,000 residents outside of Boston, is home to a sizable Jewish community.
"There are hundreds of Jewish kids in the public schools, and for a child to walk by a flag that supports a group that threatens to annihilate my people, that can be a very traumatic experience for children," said Bleich, whose synagogue includes members of the Wellesley school district.
Sprague Elementary administrators announced that they would hang the flag on May 8. Neal Glick, a Sprague parent, told the Free Beacon that his son's third grade class was shown a presentation on Black Lives Matter a few days later. The slideshow included photos of protesters, one of whom held a sign that defined privilege as "something that you don't know you have until you realize that others don't."
Jewish and non-Jewish parents alike were concerned by the decision to raise the flag. Glick said it was one of a series of parents' concerns with the Wellesley public school district. Wellesley spends thousands of dollars more per pupil than a nearby district, where students perform better on standardized tests, Glick said.
"There's concern that academic excellence is being put on the back burner in favor of diversity, equity and inclusion. And that sounds nice as a nice statement of goals, but in practice, it's an emphasis on molding and indoctrinating children as opposed to teaching them with academic rigor," Glick said. "[Parents] just don't want their public institutions aligned with the Black Lives Matter organization."
Hanging the flag isn't the district's first excursion into woke politics. Wellesley Public Schools in March banned white students from attending a virtual event on Asian hate crimes—prompting the nonprofit group Parents Defending Education to file a federal complaint with the Justice Department.
"A public school district—in 2021—is encouraging segregation on the basis of race," Parents Defending Education spokeswoman Nicole Neily said. "That's not only immoral, it's also unconstitutional."
Sprague Elementary principal Leigh Petrowsky did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment in time for publication.
"Up until last week, you can say you supported Black Lives Matter and ignore what they stand for," Bleich said. "But at this point, it's become very clear to everyone where Black Lives Matter stands. As such, it has no place in Wellesley."