California synagogue keeps preschool teacher on staff despite antisemitic social media posts
The teacher’s social media feeds are filled with anti-Israel vitriol and conspiracy theories
One major challenge for some Jewish institutions after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks is where to draw the line against employees sharing anti-Israel content on their social media — especially for organizations like Jewish community centers and preschools that often employ a diverse staff, where views on the Middle East have rarely been part of the vetting process.
The issue has recently roiled two Conservative synagogues that run preschools in Southern California, with the two school administrations reacting in very different ways. Most recently, at Congregation B’nai Israel in Orange County, a teacher in the preschool was found to have posted ample pro-Hamas and antisemitic content on her personal social media pages, and the synagogue’s leadership has opted to take no punitive action against the employee.
In response, some congregants have left the synagogue, according to one former member — and others are fuming over the synagogue’s decision to keep the teacher employed.
According to images viewed by Jewish Insider, a preschool teacher at CBI has been posting prolifically to her personal accounts since the Oct. 7 attacks. The posts include: false claims that “Isr*eli forces steal 145 dead bodies from Al-Shifa hospital” and that “Israel is skinning the bodies of killed Palestinians! What does it use their skin for?”
JI reviewed screenshots of eight anti-Israel posts shared by the teacher, which also include two posts implying that Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas were treated well.
Two members of the community, both requesting to remain anonymous to discuss a sensitive issue — one formerly a member of the synagogue — penned an open letter to the congregation calling out the leadership’s “decision to take no action.”
“This has made many Jewish and Israeli congregants and families feel uncomfortable, and more importantly unsafe,” they wrote in the letter, referring to the teacher’s posts. “The teacher is not Jewish, and the content goes beyond mere ‘criticism of Israel’ or ‘constructive criticism from within the community’; it is blatant anti-Israel/anti-Zionism/antisemitism. Some content is ‘Pro-Hamas,’ expressing support for the terrorist organization that has committed atrocities against Israeli individuals. Some of the content is antisemitic blood libel.”
The letter goes on to call it “perplexing” that “someone openly expressing hate/disgust towards Israel, chooses to work at a Jewish institution with ‘Israel’ in the name.”
Sam Brown, executive director of CBI, told JI that from the time the congregation became aware of her posts, “we immediately conducted an internal review in accordance with our HR, legal and security teams, and listened carefully to many parent perspectives and their positive experiences with this teacher.” Brown declined to elaborate further.
But one of the authors of the letter, who has left the congregation because of the situation, told JI that leadership did not adequately listen to concerns.
“Many of us, myself included, brought this to their attention and they did not say there was an investigation,” she said. “The concerning part is that synagogue leadership is aware of this – they have seen the images themselves. Instead of agreeing it’s inappropriate for someone at a Jewish preschool watching Jewish and Israeli kids to have content like that, they seemed not bothered.”
The author of the letter said that at least eight parents of preschoolers have complained.
Fifty miles from Congregation B’nai Israel, in North Hollywood, a charter school and the synagogue that rents its space found itself dealing with a similar incident in November, KTLA TV first reported. One of the teachers at Adat Ari El complained on social media about Israeli flags, displayed days after Oct. 7, on the campus of the Conservative synagogue, which also operates a preschool.
The first-grade teacher, as well as one of her co-workers, also held lessons claiming that Israel is committing “genocide in Palestine.” Brian Schuldenfrei, senior rabbi of the congregation, told KTLA at the time that, “after the lesson, one of the teachers proudly shared on Instagram, and I quote, ‘LOL but I did a lesson on the genocide in Palestine today w my first graders… My fav was a kid who was like ‘What if they just gave the land back to Palestine and find somewhere else to live.’”
Both incidents immediately sparked condemnation among parents at the synagogue and the charter school, Citizens of the World-East Valley. Following a third-party investigation, both teachers and the charter school’s principal, who also confronted Schuldenfrei about the Israeli flags, were placed on leave.