MCEA Cease-Fire Resolution Deemed Out of Order

Community members rallying against the Montgomery County Education Association’s cease-fire resolution on March 6. Photo credit: Suzanne Pollak

A resolution calling for a “Ceasefire in Israel and Palestine” by members of the Montgomery County Education Association was ruled out of order at a March 6 meeting and was therefore not voted upon.

The resolution did receive a second. However, it was declared out of order as the teachers union’s stated purpose and mission does not lend itself to taking a stand on foreign affairs, explained a member of Montgomery County Jewish Educators Alliance who attended the meeting.

During the meeting, which was closed to the press, the union’s parliamentarian read a letter from the union’s counsel, explaining that the union does not have standing to vote on it.

“There was some protest from a few people who were in favor,” according to MCJEA. However, they were not permitted to speak during the open microphone session at the end of the meeting.

One member stormed out of the meeting. But once MCEA moved on to other business, “there was applause in the room,” MCJEA noted.

The proposed resolution was part of the U.S. labor movement’s call for a cease-fire in Gaza and for President Joe Biden to immediately call for a cease-fire.

According to a statement from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the resolution includes “no condemnation of Hamas for its horrific terrorist attack that killed 1,200 Israelis on October 7; no mention of Hamas raping and sexually mutilating more than 200 girls and young women; and no call for Hamas to surrender.

Under its terms, Hamas would be free to remain in power and carry out additional attacks on innocent civilians.”

Following the vote, the JCRC issued another statement praising the union for not adopting the resolution.

“MCEA did the right thing by standing down on a resolution that would have clearly violated the standards of its own constitution. If passed, this resolution would have done nothing to educate students or support teachers but would have caused real harm to Jewish families and educators already battling a sharp increase in antisemitism attacks in our community. It should never have even been considered, but we are pleased that it ultimately received the fate it deserved.”

As teachers and other union members walked into the March 6 meeting, JCRC and MCJEA members rallied in front of MCEA’s headquarters in Rockville, calling on them to concentrate on education and their students rather than foreign affairs.

As people chanted “School Solutions, Not War Resolutions” and “Local Affairs, Not Foreign Affairs,” about 15 supporters of a cease-fire stood nearby and shouted, “Free Palestine” and “Stop Killing Babies.”

Those in favor of the cease-fire identified themselves to the Washington Jewish Week as community members, humans, teachers and parents with children at Montgomery County
Public Schools.

During the rally, Rebecca Kotol, an MCPS elementary school counselor, told the crowd, “I am as proud of being Jewish as I am a school counselor and union member.”

She clearly was upset that her union would even consider supporting a cease-fire. “There is not one reason that gives our union the jurisdiction to weigh in on a foreign issue, not one.”

She wondered why her union would raise a divisive political issue during a school year already sidetracked by the mishandling of teacher bullying and promotions and the departure of former Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight.

MCEA needs to be more concerned with class size, a shortage of educators and improving scores, stressed Kotol and JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber.

While those opposed to a cease-fire spoke, others opposing it shouted such things as “Stop the Genocide” and “Stop Killing Babies.”

Halber warned those against the cease-fire resolution not to engage with them and declared, “I am louder.”

Halber questioned why those favoring a cease-fire didn’t come out and protest the thousands killed in other wars throughout the world.

“They weren’t out there when the Syrians were slaughtering their own people. Why are they out here now? Because we are Jews. Let’s be honest,” Halber said.

“This is a very passionate issue that has people on both sides. This resolution is very political in nature.” He added, “It has no impact and no influence.”

Teachers should be concerned with supporting students and keeping them safe, especially when this issue is bringing out the worst on social media, declared Bethesda-Chevy Chase High senior Darci Rochkind.

“I wish I didn’t have to be here today,” she said, adding that she respects her teachers, “but I was disheartened by this.”

The rally concluded with the singing of “Am Yisrael Chai” as people returned to their cars under the watchful eyes of Rockville City police officers, who stood by throughout the rally.

Congregation Har Shalom’s Rabbi Adam Raskin joined the rally. Afterward, he posted on Facebook, “With MCPS facing staffing shortages, leadership vacancies, overburdened teachers, budget cuts, critical needs for special education, mental health, facilities improvements, and so many other urgent issues, focusing on divisive rhetoric that makes schools less safe for Jewish students and teachers is irresponsible.”

Prior to the vote, members of MCJEA and other Jewish groups flooded officials at MCEA and MCPS with emails urging the that the cease-fire resolution be withdrawn.

Suzanne Pollak is a freelance writer.

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