The Hebrew Watchman (Jewish Scene Magazine) included letters from both B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Germantown Municipal School District superintendent Dr. Jason Manuel in response to a district administrator comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Several prominent Jewish community leaders, rabbis, organizations and Congressman Steve Cohen have responded to a Facebook post by an administrator in the Germantown Municipal School District comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Within days, Memphis-area news outlets aired and published information concerning the comments by the administrator, Janna Matykiewicz, at Houston High School. The post, which has since been taken off Facebook, read “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
Rabbi Jeremy Simons of Temple Is- rael commented to NBC Action News 5 that “to know this came from an ed- ucator... it was shocking and deeply distressing.”
Rabbi Sarit Horwitz of Beth Sholom spoke with ABC Local 24 saying “vac- cines are about giving life and uphold- ing life for everyone, for ourselves, for our families, for our larger community whereas the mass genocide of the Jew- ish people was about killing people.”
Letters were also sent to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District concerning her remarks. A student started a petition to fire the administrator at change.org, which at the time of this article had re- ceived 2,417 signatures.
Read more in the Hebrew Watchman.
Charles O. Kaufman, president B’nai B’rith International and local B’nai B’rith member Harold I. Steinberg sent the following letters to Dr. Manuel.
Letter from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
There is no confusion surrounding the message behind Janna Matykiewicz’s Facebook post: “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
By invoking the yellow star used by Nazis to segregate and identify Jews as a population to be demonized, your colleague has entered something more than simply a poor use of a metaphor from history. Imagine the message that already is filtering through the Germantown school community, not just Houston High School.
This is an administrator who has a problem relating events in history to the management of today’s Covid-19 pan- demic, which has exploded into a most serious health concern with the current wave of variants. It is a matter of ignorance, pure and simple, a lack of sen- sitivity and perhaps latent hatred. This was no slip of the tongue or an example taken out of context.
A severe reprimand, a suspension or dismissal is certainly in order. In the meantime, it is important for Ms. Matykiewicz, faculty and students to understand why such parallels are so abhor- rent, and I trust you will wisely guide your colleagues to make this circumstance a teaching opportunity.
Frankly, Jews around the world have enough problems with anti-Semites casually accusing Jews and Israel of acting like “Nazis” or practicing “Apartheid.” And now the unmistakable 82-year time frame of wearing yellow stars. These are false narratives, if not blood libels, of modern times.
Today’s education system has many successes, to be sure, but this incident is proof that education is sliding into a very deep hole of learning deficits.
B’nai B’rith has worked in the Memphis area and around the world to serve the good of the community and stamp out anti-Semitism and we stand ready to assist you in solving this problem.
President, B’nai B’rith International
Letter from Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
As a member of the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith, founded in Memphis in 1854 (yes, in 1854), I am proud of its long record of service. As an example, following the assassination of President Lincoln, the entire lodge marched in a local memorial procession. In addition, B’nai B’rith has an unmatched record of support to the United States and members of the military service. President Truman sent a letter to B’nai B’rith thanking the organization for its “amazing amount of national service.” There are many other examples I could cite.
I am also a member of the Germantown Financial Advisory Commission. I have long been proud of the commission’s steadfast support for quality education in our city and the Germantown Municipal School District. But the recent news report about Janna Matykiewicz’s post on Facebook tells me that there is more work to do.
Simply stated, Ms. Matykiewicz must be disciplined, suspended or terminated. GMSD cannot allow such remarks to go unanswered.
Students at Houston High School should benefit from administrators who clearly understand that America is stronger for its diversity. I ask that you ensure this message is received by students, faculty and staff, not only at Houston High School, but throughout the entire GMSD.
I stand ready to assist you in any way.
Harold I. Steinberg
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