Berlin Jews blast teachers for discriminatory labor strike

Leftist GEW union has yet to reject Nazi past

November 23, 2017 02:36
3 minute read.
Berlin Jews blast teachers for discriminatory labor strike

An employee of the chancellery sweeps the red carpet in front of the honour guard before a welcoming ceremony at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 2, 2016. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Germany’s largest regional Jewish community, in Berlin, condemned the Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW) for disproportionately targeting Jewish schools for strike activity and failing to rope in antisemitism in Berlin’s school system.

“In the last four years, the GEW has called six times for strikes at Jewish schools of the Jewish community.

No other private school has received so much attention from the labor union,” Ilan Kiesling, the spokesman for the over 10,000-members of the Berlin Jewish community, told The Jerusalem Post. Kiesling asked, why is the teachers union fixated on the community executive board even after a 12-year standstill raised the salaries of teachers? Likewise, Sigmount A. Königsberg, the Berlin Jewish community’s commissioner on antisemitism, told the Post, “Antisemitism has been a massive problem in public schools for over 10 years...

Dozens of Jewish students have left public schools because of antisemitic harassment and were taken in by schools of the Jewish community in Berlin. Over all of the years, the Jewish community has not heard the sound of protests from the GEW [regarding antisemitism in the schools].”

Königsberg said he would look forward to the teachers’ union bringing the same protest activity toward the outbreaks of Jew-hatred in public schools in Berlin.

The labor dispute has sharpened into a civil society debate over whether the left-leaning GEW, with a Nazi past, has ignored Muslim and other forms of antisemitism in the school system, including one of its member unions supporting a full boycott of the Jewish state.

The community’s antisemitism expert said he is not aware of any GEW strikes against Catholic or Islamic schools where labor agreements have not been reached. “Are double standards being applied?” Königsberg asked.

Udo Mertens, the head of the Berlin GEW’s executive board for collective bargaining, told the Post that the labor dispute “is between an employer and labor union members of the employer that are represented by the GEW.”

He termed the labor unrest a “fully normal process.”

“A large number of our members at the Jewish schools are of the Jewish faith and members of the community,” he said. He flatly rejected the accusations of double standards, calling them “absurd.”

Mertens said that there have not been strikes at other private schools or religious-based schools in Berlin because the employers have showed cooperation with the demands of the employees, in contrast to the chairperson of the Jewish community in Berlin. Mertens said there have also been disputes with Islamic institutions and their employees.

Mertens declined to name the religious schools that were affected by GEW labor unrest.

The labor leader said that GEW Berlin is engaged against antisemitism in Berlin schools and organizes a “Night of Remembrances” on November 9 for “the beginning of the genocide of the over 6 million murdered European Jews.”

A Post email query to the federal president of Germany’s teachers’ union, Marlis Tepe, was not returned.

Königsberg said the time is ripe for" the GEW to clearly distance itself from its first federal chairman Max Traeger because of his involvement in the National Socialist Teachers League , especially in connection with the confiscation of [Jewish property] still in use by the GEW in Hamburg."

Kiesling asked, "Which support do teachers receive from the GEW who can't--or without fear-- teach topics at their schools like the Shoah and the Middle East?" He noted a study that showed that 40% of students over the age of 14 do not understand the meaning of Auschwitz. Kiesling asked, "where is the outrage from the teachers union?"

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