May 6, 2008
The group of community leaders and concerned individuals below wrote and asked to meet with the Mayor, but he (his office) turned them down. Rabbi Matalon wrote on behalf of the group twice more but they still said no. They said it was because of the lawsuit; however, the Mayor regularly talks about things he’s being sued about.
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
As members of the religious, higher education, and K–12 communities of New York City, we request a meeting with you to discuss the current status of Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and the growing threat to democratic education imposed by a small group who make the hateful and unfounded claim that “radical Islam” is being promoted in the school system
There is a general consensus among fair-minded New Yorkers, confirmed by this past week’s article in the New York Times, that Ms. Almontaser was the victim of a campaign of religious and ethnic bigotry that threatens the integrity, diversity, and democracy of public education K – 12. The impact has gone well beyond the wrong that was done to Ms. Almontaser. New York City’s public education system is recognized nationally and internationally for our commitments to pluralism, the small schools movement, and our rich history of dual language programs.
The episode has sent a chill through the small school movement and dual language programs, both of which, as you know, are such a vital part of our City’s public school system, and has dangerously circumscribed the range of acceptable discussion, debate and even hirings in our colleges and universities. In the City at large, the attacks on Ms. Almontaser and KGIA have re-ignited the forces of hate and intolerance, censorship and intimidation that have afflicted not only the Arab and Muslim communities since 9/11, but the Jewish communities, the world of higher education, and public K – 12 educators.
We would like to meet with you to enlist your help not only in rectifying the grave injustice done to Ms. Almontaser, but to also address these other critical issues affecting all New Yorkers.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Imam Shamsi Ali, Islamic Cultural Center of New York
Professor Louis Cristillo, Teachers College, Columbia University
Professor Michelle Fine, The Graduate Center–City University of New York
Professor Ofelia Garcia, Teachers College, Columbia University
Dr. Paula Hajar, educator
Deborah Howard, consultant and member, KGIA Design Team
Rabbi Rolando Matalon, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
Professor Deborah Meier, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University
Pomposa Pena, PTA president, Khalil Gibran International Academy
Muhammed Shahadat, parent, Khalil Gibran International Academy
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary
*affiliations for identification purposes
Please respond to:
Rabbi Rolando Matalon
212-787-7600 ext 234