✅ Jews, Muslims and Palestinians are upset about the yearbook error

✅ ACLU to be involved in the district's investigation

✅ Fort Lee parents upset over description of Hamas in high school lesson

Jewish and Muslim students gave the East Brunswick Board of Education an earful following the discovery that Jewish students had been erased from the yearbook.

East Brunswick High School seniors who got their yearbooks on Tuesday found that the listing for the Jewish Student Union had been replaced with a photo of Muslim students with the space for the students' names left blank.

The controversy comes as tensions in many New Jersey communities continue to mount as the war wages in Gaza. In another school district, for example, teachers are getting heat for a lesson deemed biased in favor of Hamas.

UPDATE: Superintendent blames email for Jewish yearbook erasure

During Thursday night's East Brunswick Board of Education meeting, schools Superintendent Victor Valeski said there was a “gross lack of oversight in the creation of that page” but the investigation continues, according to TAP into East Brunswick coverage of the meeting.

Valeski said a special counsel from the American Civil Liberties Union is being used to investigate what happened in an "independent, thorough, and fair" fashion.

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Jewish Student Union listing in East Brunswick High School yearbook
Jewish Student Union listing in East Brunswick High School yearbook (@StopAntisemites via X),

Discomfort in the spotlight

During the public comment section of the meeting, students said they do not feel safe under the glare of the online media spotlight. One student said the situation has created a hostile environment within the school and divided students, according to News 12's coverage.

“This is a school, this is a learning institution, and it shouldn’t be where we create divide,” she said.

Hasan Sayin, president of the Muslim Student Association, took issue with statements by Valeski on the district website. He said that while Jewish students feel "erased" by the listing, Muslim students were being blamed for the error and were called terrorists, according to TAP into East Brunswick.

Mayor Brad Cohen came under criticism for his statement calling the omission "blatant anti-Semitism." Erum Shakir, of the East Brunswick Human Relations Council, said Cohen appointed himself "judge, jury, and executioner" and accused him of cyberbullying with the statement he posted on social media, according to TAP.

Valeski told CBS New York that the page will be replaced at a cost of $1,000 to the district by next week.

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Audience at Fort Lee Board of Education meeting 6/3/24
Audience at Fort Lee Board of Education meeting 6/3/24 (Fort Lee Public Schools via YouTube)

Rabbi: Lesson "full of inaccuracies"

Parents and students, some holding Israeli and Palestinian flags, expressed their outrage about a lesson at Fort Lee High School about the war between Israel and Hamas that described the organization as a "Palestinian political party." Hamas has been considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997.

Fort Lee has one of the largest Jewish populations in New Jersey

School board member Paula Colbath said she received more than 500 emails on the issue.

Rabbi Shmuel Bergman of Young Israel of Fort Lee told the school board that the classroom presentation was "full of inaccuracies" and called it "egregiously false and dangerously anti-Semitic."

"For teachers at a U.S. public school to tell Fort Lee students that Hamas' murdering of Jews isn't terrorism is not only antisemitic it's also anti-American," Bergman said. "Therefore, swift harsh consequences for the teachers who participated in this miseducation is in order. The message we must clearly communicate to our teachers is that if they attempt to indoctrinate their students to antisemitic and anti-American rhetoric they will lose their job."

PIX 11 reported that one of the teachers has submitted their resignation effective at the end of the month when the school year ends. A second is on paid administrative leave.

A man wearing a "Free Palestine" shirt was drowned out by boos as he urged people to "seek the truth" about the conflict and called for dialogue.

"We can all talk and have a dialogue. Nobody wants to kill the Jews. I'm Muslim and I'm Palestinian. Look at how you act look at you're acting. I can't even speak," he said.

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