North Carolina is currently the site of one of the saddest public chapters of Jews and Jewish institutions turning on each other.
A family left a Jewish day school because the school is not pro-Israel and instead harbors wildly anti-Israel administrators and teachers. In turn, the school insists it is pro-Israel and that the parents, who departed before the school year began, should have paid the full year’s tuition for their two children, as they were required under the contract they signed.
The school is suing the parents for breach of contract.
The parents, confident that they were justified, turned to the media to draw attention to what they see as a shanda: a Jewish school employing anti-Israel agitators. The school in turn has enlisted the other Jewish communal organizations in the area, as well as parents and parents of alumni, to publicly defend the school and criticize the defecting family.
Ugly does not begin to cover it.
The Lerner School (until very recently the Sandra E. Lerner Jewish Community Day School) brought its breach of contract claim against Dr. Guy and Sloan Rachmuth in North Carolina state district court, located in Durham.
The motivating factor which led the Rathmuchs to withdraw their children from the school before the start of term in 2014 was their realization that the school is not, as they had been promised, pro-Israel.
Local Jewish communal leaders responded by claiming that from their personal experience, that claim is false, almost laughably so. But this is no laughing matter.
One of the strongest voices in this chorus of Lerner School support comes from Rabbi Larry Bach of Judea Reform Congregation, which is located on the same campus as the Lerner School. Bach explained that it has an “ongoing partnership with Lerner, which includes “sharing space and resources.”
On Feb. 17, Rabbi Bach wrote a letter to his Judea Reform congregants in support of the Lerner School position. That letter has been distributed beyond the congregation, as testament to the Lerner School’s pro-Israel bona fides. He wrote that he was “incredulous at the charges leveled against the school,” and that “nothing that I’ve seen of the school comports with the story being told by its detractors.”
He also wrote:
My brief experience is nothing compared to the connections many of you have. Judea Reform members are proud parents and former parents, founders, teachers and administrators, and benefactors. We at JRC are proud of our ongoing partnership with Lerner, which manifests in sharing space and resources, and in other ways, big and small. I look forward to a deepening relationship with Lerner, both personally and between our two institutions, in the years ahead.
Just a reminder: the Rachmuths serious disagreement with the Lerner School was that it was not supportive of Israel, and that instead its position towards Israel, as evidenced by its hiring of anti-Israel faculty and members its own administration, made it an environment in which their children could not be educated. The basis of the family’s counterclaim against the school is for “unfair and deceptive trade practices,” based on promises made by the school specifically about its pro-Israel positions.
So it is relevant to consider what goes on in the Jewish congregation next door, which has a “partnership” with Lerner, including “sharing space and resources, and in other ways, big and small,” specifically regarding Israel.
A quick scan of the temple’s speakers and presentations brings one up short. The Judea Reform website reveals a particular orientation regarding Israel, but it isn’t close to what either Lerner is claiming or what the Rachmuths were allegedly promised by its school partner. In fact, every topic that has anything to do with Israel is one-sided against the Jewish State.Lori Lowenthal Marcus