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NYC school bans 'Proud Zionist' t-shirt, teacher calls it 'anti-Semitic'

Teacher slams principal over banning 'politically explosive' shirt, says other staff allowed to wear pro-BLM messages
UPDATED NOV 15, 2021
The MS51 school in Brooklyn (MS 51/Facebook) with an insert of a Proud Zionist message (United With Israel/Facebook)
The MS51 school in Brooklyn (MS 51/Facebook) with an insert of a Proud Zionist message (United With Israel/Facebook)

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK CITY: An English teacher at a Brooklyn school has filed a discrimination complaint over his t-shirt, which fellow staff and students allegedly found offensive. Jeffrey Levy reportedly wore a 'Proud Zionist' t-shirt to school one day but was quickly reprimanded for doing so. He goes on to claim that other political messages, such as pro-Black Lives Matter (BLM) and women's rights have been allowed, so he's clearly not a happy man.

Schools have increasingly become key venues for political debates, especially around racism. On September 17, Oregon teacher Lauren Pefferle came to school in blackface to protest a vaccine mandate. Days before that, a Portland teacher removed the US flag from her classroom after the school district banned BLM and LGBTQ flags. In July, Illinois teacher Jeanne Hedgepeth was fired for anti-BLM social media posts, leading her to sue the school district in response.


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Of late, many teachers have come under fire, or have been fired for their stance on political debates against the "woke left". Anti-BLM, pro-White nationalism, and now even pro-Israel messages are seeming taboo subjects in schools all over the nation. A good example of this is how Levy was treated, as compared to his peers.

'Definition appears limited to Jews only'

It's unclear when Levy wore the t-shirt to school, but he did file the complaint on September 30. The garment in question features the words 'Proud Zionist' with a blue Star of David at the center, which the English teacher reportedly made himself. In his complaint to the Department of Education’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, Levy wrote that Principal Neal Singh "told me that my T-shirt with an Israeli flag on it and the words ‘Proud Zionist’ were politically explosive." He added, "Singh’s definition of politically explosive attire appears limited to Jews only."

He then went on to highlight the double standards at play at the M.S. 51 William Alexander school in Brooklyn. "Singh has permitted other staff to wear attire with ‘Black Lives Matter', 'Feminist', and 'O’Connor & Ginsburg & Sotomayor & Kagan' messages," he wrote. The teacher defended himself, saying, "None of my attire, actions or beliefs endanger the emotional or physical safety of students or staff, which Singh accused me of. … I have conducted myself professionally and have always respected the beliefs of all while doing my job neutrally and without bias."

Levy called Singh's warning "anti-Semitic" and also noted he had been previously called out for wearing a 'Back The Blue' t-shirt. Responding to the news, The DoE told The New York Post, "Schools are not public forums for advancing personal political views, and per Department of Education regulations, employees are prohibited from using schools for the purpose of political expression." They went on to defend Singh, saying, "This principal’s request followed complaints from students and staff and is consistent with policies around political neutrality in schools."

But not everyone is happy with the DoE's defense. Former state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the non-profit Americans Against Anti-Semitism raged, "How insulting. This is sick. This is pathetic," and asked, "You can’t say you’re a proud Jew and supportive of the people and the State of Israel?" He went on to slam the DoE, saying, "There should be one standard for all. But this is what’s going on in our city."

Zionism is a religious movement that led to the creation of the state of Israel, as a separate nation of Jews. Palestinians however, contend the land belongs to them, which has long led to allegations that Zionism is a discriminatory belief.