teaching Aramaic in a Jish classroom 521.
(photo credit: JUDITH SUDILOVSKY)
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative body of UK Jewry, has
issued a call for Jewish teachers to join the National Union of Teachers and
similar academic organizations.
The call, which went out last week, comes
after years of discontent with unions such as the NUT due to actions and
statements that some of their Jewish members have perceived as
England’s Jewish Leadership Council, which is cooperating
with the board on this matter, has instructed educators to join the Jewish
Teacher’s Association in order to strengthen the Jewish presence in the larger
Improvement in the NUT can only “come from within,” the Board of
“The perceived and often actually hostile attitude to
Israel in many unions has led to Jewish members renouncing their memberships,
and this is understandable,” Board of Deputies spokesman James Martin told The
Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“However, this unfortunately deprives them of
the opportunity to make and influence policy that is the right of any trade
unionist, and it has often meant that the field is left clear for the most
radical elements to set the agenda,” he continued.
“There are other
issues affecting Jewish teachers, too, such as time off for religious
observance, and issues of pay and conditions that should properly be the remit
of a trade union working for its members, rather than a flight of foreign policy
Stephen Hoffman of the Zionist Federation of the UK agreed with
Martin, but added the caveat that while “there is a tendency for some union
leaders to take a knee-jerk anti- Israel position that can incite
anti-Semitism,” such positions do “not reflect the views of union
In a letter to Jewish teachers regarding the new initiative,
Jewish Teachers Association chairwoman Flora Richards explained that for many
union members who belong to her association, “the perceived NUT rhetoric around
Israel/Palestine has led to them feeling uncomfortable as Jews within the Union.
Many Jewish teachers feel Zionism and a connection to Israel is a core part of
their identity and the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish State has
struck at Jewish teachers and made their position within NUT
However, she urged Jewish teachers to renew their NUT
membership, saying, “We must be advocates for Judaism and Israel from within
NUT. We must be part of the discussion, rather than complaining from the
The NUT, she indicated, threw its weight behind recent
Palestine Solidarity Campaign efforts to lobby Parliament.
teachers began resigning from the union during the second intifada in 2002, when
a delegation at the NUT conference in Bournemouth accused Israel of carrying out
a policy of ethnic cleansing more deadly than suicide bombings.
time, Jewish teacher Rochelle Marks stated that the union “is not fair or just,
as you have never invited an Israeli speaker or someone from the Jewish
community to speak on the Middle East.”
The following year, the union
published a set of guidelines for teachers in order to combat
The NUT did not respond to requests for
Richards referred the Post to the case of Ronnie Fraser, a
mathematics instructor and a member of the University and College Union. Fraser,
the son of Holocaust survivors, is currently suing the UCU over allegations that
it created a “hostile environment” for Jewish members.
Last year, the
academic union dismissed the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and
Xenophobia’s delineation of several anti-Zionist assertions as
In a statement last year, Fraser called the union
“institutionally anti-Semitic,” saying that “the UCU, the leading trade union
partner of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, made this move in an attempt to
delegitimize and redefine anti-Semitism.”