Zionist Organization of America National President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is representing Elisabeth Schwartz in her case against two members of the Clifton, New Jersey school board, alleging that they violated New Jersey’s School Ethics Act. In May 2021 – when Israel was fighting a defensive war against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and there was a consequent rise in antisemitism in the U.S., particularly in New Jersey – the two school board members deliberately and purposefully used their official podiums to make false and incendiary antisemitic statements attacking Israel during the “commissioner comments” portion of the school board’s virtual meeting, thereby compromising the public’s trust in the board, in violation of the law.
The board members falsely accused Israel of “oppressing the Palestinian people” and “ethnic cleansing,” and of being an “apartheid” and “colonialist” state. One of the board members falsely claimed that U.S. police forces were going to Israel to learn “abusive tactics” that they were bringing back to American communities, and he effectively blamed Israel for the death of George Floyd.
In September 2021, Elisabeth Schwartz filed a complaint against the two board members with the New Jersey School Ethics Commission (“Commission”), alleging that they violated the School Ethics Act. From personal experience, Ms. Schwartz understood how hatred of Israel can fuel hatred of Jews. She is the aunt of Ezra Schwartz, the 18-year-old Jewish American student who was murdered in a Palestinian Arab terrorist attack in 2015.
In January 2022, the Commission granted the board members’ motion to dismiss and summarily dismissed Ms. Schwartz’s complaint without holding a hearing. Ms. Schwartz had the right to appeal the dismissal decision to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, and reached out to the ZOA for help.
The ZOA appealed the Commission’s dismissal decision, filing its initial brief with the Appellate Division on May 23, 2022. On August 8, 2022, the ZOA filed a reply brief responding to the arguments made by the two school board members in their brief. Both ZOA briefs explain why the Commission’s decision was wrong and must be reversed. Under the School Ethics Act, school board members are prohibited from taking action beyond the scope of their duties and responsibilities that potentially compromise the Board. Yet that is precisely what the two school board members did. Each of them delivered inflammatory antisemitic speeches attacking Israel that had nothing to do with their Board responsibilities. Compounding their violation of the law, the board members each failed to make it clear before they launched their anti-Israel, antisemitic attacks that they were expressing their personal opinions only and were not speaking on the board’s behalf. As a result, they potentially compromised the public’s trust and confidence in the board, particularly among Jewish members of the Clifton community.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein stated, “At a time of frightening and soaring Jew-hatred, it’s both dangerous and unconscionable that two school board members would recklessly and irresponsibly foment Jew-hatred by using their official podiums at a school board meeting to demonize and brutally attack the Jewish state of Israel with monstrous and egregious lies, falsely blame Israel for problems in the U.S. including the killing of Blacks, and deny the Jewish State of Israel’s very right to exist. Jewish students and their families could not possibly have any trust in this board and expect to be treated fairly on matters before the board.”
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, stated, “We thank Elisabeth Schwartz for taking the initiative to file an ethics complaint against two school board members who used a board meeting for their own personal purposes, having nothing to do with the welfare of the children in the district. We are proud to be representing her on this appeal and hope that the Appellate Division will reverse the Commission’s decision and permit Ms. Schwartz to demonstrate that these two board members violated their ethical obligations to their constituents.
“We are also proud to be partnering in this case with Jeffrey Schreiber, Esq., a highly experienced and accomplished litigator and the managing partner of Meister Seelig & Fein’s New Jersey office. Together, we are sending the much-needed message to Clifton’s board of education and to others in positions of public trust that they will be held to account if they abuse that trust by demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state and encouraging antisemitism.”