WESTFIELD, NJ — Residents called for the removal or resignation of a Westfield School Board member last week, for sharing social media posts that are critical of Israel amid the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza. Some also said the superintendent of Westfield Schools did not go far enough to condemn the terrorist actions of Hamas.
The video of the board meeting is currently under review and not available to view. Several residents stood to press Superintendent Raymond A. González on his comments on the ongoing events in the Middle East.
"The devastation is heartbreaking and distressing. Over the past few days, many community members have reached out to share their concerns, frustrations, and questions about the steps we are taking to support our students. As a school district, I want to reiterate our steadfast commitment to creating a secure and welcoming environment where every student feels valued and protected," wrote González.
Local rabbis in the Westfield area were not happy with González's letter to the community and shared their displeasure publicly on their social media pages.
Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El and parent of a Westfield Public School student Ethan Prosnit said he was "deeply disappointed by the most recent statement that was shared with the Westfield Public School community."
"At best, the statement was generic and could have been sent out after any other horrifying event in our world. At worst, it diluted and minimized the atrocities that are happening in Israel," said Prosnit. "Our community leaders must be clear in their language. What happened in Israel is terrorism."
Rabbi Howard Tilman of Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains also expressed his "profound disappointment" toward González in a letter that was published in tapinto.net.
"Along with many members of our synagogue community, I am shocked that you could not offer a clear condemnation of Hamas, a terrorist organization which proudly and publicly executed over 1,200 Israeli citizens including women and children," said Tilman.
González defended his statement at the Board meeting saying that his "personal feelings about matters outside the jurisdiction of the school district on any given topic have no place in any of my communications with the school community," according to tapinto.net.
Residents also called for the removal or resignation of a Westfield School Board member Sahar Aziz, who is the first Arab and Muslim woman elected to the Board.
Aziz has already faced backlash for her pro-Palestine stance on her personal social media account as some constituents claimed they were antisemitic. On Tuesday, residents stood up before the board to decry what they saw as tacit approval of Hamas' attack on Israel in certain posts Aziz shared on X (formerly Twitter).
Some residents created a change.org petition calling for Aziz's removal, which was under review as of Thursday and not available to view.
Just last month, other board members rescinded an earlier motion to remove Aziz from the board after her absences from multiple consecutive meetings on July 18, Aug. 22, and Aug. 29.
Board member Charles Gelinas, who voted against the initial motion on Aug. 29, said at the Sept. 11 meeting that the punishment to remove Aziz from the Board "did not fit the crime."
All of the board members voted in favor of rescinding the motion to remove Aziz from the Board with Aziz abstaining.