Press Release: April 23

Open Letter to the Jewish Community

At this time of Passover, when we gather as families at our seder tables, it is an auspicious time to remember that our “family” extends outward to all of God’s creation and therefore to all members of the human family. Every act we undertake to bridge differences and enhance the dignity of other human beings brings all of closer to the liberation and redemption that we celebrate during these eight glorious days. Building friendships across borders of religion and culture is a powerful lesson of the Pesach holiday. Walking through uncharted territory with sometimes threatening waters on both sides of us is in the spirit of our celebration and commemoration.

In this spirit we seek your support and respect for a colleague and friend who has suffered and continues to suffer from a disturbing and growing prejudice in our midst. You are certain to have heard of her, but may not be fully aware of her goodness, competence, and openness to all people. We are speaking of Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, NYC’s first Arabic language public school. Many of us know Debbie personally, others from a distance. But we all respect and admire her and we believe that she has been wronged. In the spirit of Passover we ask your support to right this wrong and your help in achieving her reinstatement at the Academy. As Jews, we have experienced Debbie’s friendship to us. We are certain that her return to her children will only bring greater peace and understanding between people of all faiths in our educational system and in our city as a whole.


Jacob Bender, Filmmaker
Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Rabbi Anne Ebersman, Abraham Joshua Heschel School
Rabbi Barat Ellman
Leonard Fein, writer
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Peter Geffen, Founder, Abraham Joshua Heschel School
Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz Visiting Professor, Jewish Studies, Comparative Literature, & History, Queen’s College/.CUNY
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, Congreegation Ansche Chesed
Rabbi Irwin Kula, CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayenu
Rabbi J, Rolando Matalon, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
Marilyn Neimark, Co-founder, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Donna Nevel, Co-founder, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, writer and activist
Dara Silverman, Director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Rabbi Felicia Sol, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
Alisa Solomon, writer
Rabbi Mychal Springer, Jewish Theological Seminary
Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, Co-executive Director, Abraham’s Vision
Rabbi Burton L. Vizotsky, Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Encounter
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, Brooklyn
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

*affiliations for identification purposes


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