Rep. Zeldin Seeks Investigation Into Anti-Semitism in NYC Public Schools

Lawmaker says anti-Israel teachers endanger Jewish students

New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin (R.) / Getty Images
August 6, 2021

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) petitioned the Department of Education to launch an investigation into a group of New York City public school teachers who he says are indoctrinating kids with anti-Israel materials and anti-Semitic views.

Zeldin, in a previously unreported Aug. 3 letter to the education departments in Washington, D.C., and New York City, demands that officials "do everything in [their] power to combat antisemitic and anti-Israel bias and discrimination in public schools."

The lawmaker's request for an investigation comes just a month after a collective of public school teachers who call themselves New York City Educators for Palestine released an open letter blasting Israel for "ethnically cleansing Palestinians" and promoting anti-Semitic attitudes about Jewish people. The missive was widely criticized for fostering an unsafe environment for Jewish students as anti-Semitic hate crimes skyrocket across the country, particularly in New York City. Zeldin, in his letter, said the teachers' collective relies on "talking points all too commonly used to fuel violent attacks on and discrimination against Jews."

Anti-Israel sentiment has swelled among teachers and others in the academic community in the months since Hamas barraged the Jewish state with thousands of missiles, sparking one of the worst periods of violence between the sides in years. The May war fueled a historic rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, with the Anti-Defamation League reporting that incidents climbed 75 percent in the United States around the time of the latest conflict.

"Using anti-Israel rhetoric in our children's schools will only escalate and embolden antisemitic attacks and vitriol throughout our country," Zeldin wrote.

Under a 2019 executive order signed by then-president Donald Trump, the Education Department and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) are "obligated to investigate and take decisive action if a case of antisemitism is substantiated," according to Zeldin.

Zeldin also says that the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA), an office in the New York State Education Department, has an "obligation to investigate allegations against the moral character of individuals who currently possess or are in the process of obtaining their New York State teaching certificate."

"Now that we are aware of our educators perpetuating anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric," Zeldin wrote, "the OCR and OSPRA must remain vigilant and root out any cases of antisemitism at the source."