An individual, who identified herself as Melanie Rettler, accused “the Jews” of being responsible for COVID vaccines and running a shadow government in Washington, D.C. in public comments to the Chandler Unified School District governing board.

Several Jewish organizations are praising the Chandler Unified School District for its handling of antisemitic remarks made during a governing board meeting on Oct. 27.

An individual from the community, who identified herself as Melanie Rettler, accused “the Jews” of being responsible for COVID vaccines and running a shadow government in Washington, D.C.

Speaking about critical race theory and vaccines — topics not listed on the meeting agenda or discussed by the board — Rettler talked discursively for over a minute before blaming a number of the country’s problems on the Jewish “race:”

“If you want to talk about racism, if you want to bring it in, then let’s bring it in. Let’s get to the bottom of it. We’re talking about white supremacy. OK, let’s get to the very bottom of it. Every one of these things, the deep state, the cabal, the swamp, the elite — you can’t mention it, but I will — there is one race that owns all the pharmaceutical companies and these vaccines aren’t safe, they aren’t effective and they aren’t free. You know that you’re paying for it through the increase in gas prices, the increase in food prices — you’re paying for this and it’s being taken from your money and being given to these pharmaceutical companies and if you want to bring race into this: It’s the Jews.”

Rettler walked away and board president Barb Mozdzen addressed everybody in the room: “Comments really need to be related to what the school board can do something about, and this was not something we can do something about. So please have your comments with something that is within our jurisdiction.”

Some Jewish organizations expressed outrage that Mozdzen and other board members didn’t respond more strongly.

The Arizona chapter of the Israel American Council, for example, said it wrote to the CUSD Board requesting that “in the future the board members themselves speak up the very moment such hateful lies are expressed.” Their statement follows: “Our history teaches us that allowing such racism to pass unchallenged only invites more of the same.”

The Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to the CUSD governing board and each member expressing concern about the remarks and called the district to “publicly demonstrate — in the strongest possible way their commitment to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate.” ADL also stated, “the lack of response from Board members to last night’s public speaker who used blatant antisemitic tropes and stereotypes to promote anti-vaccine and anti-CRT views is simply appalling and dangerous.”

However, Terry Locke, a spokesman for the school district, told Jewish News that it would be a violation of the open meeting law for board members to discuss items that are not on the agenda.

Immediately after Interim Superintendent Franklin Narducci learned of what happened at the board meeting, he got in touch with representatives of the Jewish community. Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, said he is pleased and grateful that Narducci sought to collaborate.

“An ignorant person made an antisemitic comment. That’s not newsworthy. What is important is that the superintendent canceled all of his meetings yesterday, in order to deal with this. I dealt with this. I got other people involved to deal with this; this is what is important,” Beyo said.

Narducci collaborated with Beyo to craft a statement that condemned hate speech and denounced the antisemitic statements. “The district reaffirms its commitment to use its influence as a public educational institution to teach students the value of an inclusive community and give them the tools to engage in our increasingly diverse society. Chandler Unified School District denounces hate speech at all levels.”

Beyo’s statement applauded the district governing board, administration and Narducci for “leading by example and speaking out against the hatred of all people.”

Paul Rockower, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, was also in direct contact with Narducci and praised the district’s outreach to and collaboration with the Jewish community.

“The school took ownership of the issue and was in touch immediately with the Jewish community to immediately take a stand on this issue,” he said. “We are grateful for taking this issue seriously and handling it directly and we appreciate their partnership in fighting against hate.” JN