Perelman Day School Sparks Debate With Move To Oust Teachers Union

Teachers and Parents Spar at Philadelphia-Area Schechter School

Strictly Business: Perelman Jewish Day School students participate in a class trip at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
perelman day school/facebook
Strictly Business: Perelman Jewish Day School students participate in a class trip at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 02, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A labor union battle raging at a Philadelphia Jewish day school has highlighted the scarcity of collective bargaining in the Jewish education system and the use of religious exemptions to ban union contracts.

Perelman Jewish Day School, with 300 kindergarten to fifth-grade students on two Philadelphia-area campuses, announced on March 24 its decision to unilaterally discontinue union contracts with its 55 teachers. The teachers were offered a nonunion contract for the next year. Parents were told the school board believes that “administrators at nonunion independent schools are better able to directly and sensitively manage their faculty.”

The move was met with a harsh rejection from the American Federation of Teachers, the teachers union, which has vowed to fight the decision. But it also puts Perelman in line with most other Jewish schools across the country that are out of bounds for union organizers. As private schools, Jewish educational institutions are not compelled to allow organized labor and most have chosen not to do so. As religious institutions, they are free of many federal labor requirements.

It is a debate that has pitted Jewish labor organizers, who argued that actions such as that taken by Perelman violate “years of Jewish law and tradition,” against Jewish parents, who believe that greater power for school administrators would help promote the Jewish value of learning.

The union contracts have been in place for 38 years. The Perelman school board made its decision without consulting the teachers or their union. Aaron Freiwald, a member of the school board, told the Forward that the board had “preliminary exchanges” with the union last fall, but the union made clear that it “would not negotiate if tenure and seniority were on the table.” As a result, the school decided not to renew the union contract, which expires in the summer.

In an emergency meeting held on school grounds March 27, teachers and union representatives strongly rejected the board’s move, vowing to fight it in order to restore collective bargaining rights. “The actions of this board of directors are immoral,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania, in a statement that also accused the school board of plotting behind their faculty’s back. “The board’s entire rollout this week was designed to pressure, manipulate and intimidate faculty into signing agreements that aren’t in their best interests or in the best interests? of the school or students.”

The dispute has touched on not only the fairness of dropping union representation, but also on the move’s legality, its practical ramifications and its compliance with Jewish values.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.