Jewish Educator in NYC Portrayed Disparagingly in Mural Commissioned by Principal Sued for Antisemitic Harassment
An educator at a New York City school was portrayed disparagingly in a mural commissioned by his boss, whom he had sued for antisemitic harassment, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
Assistant principal David Possner, of Junior High School 226 in Queens, is depicted in the wall artwork as a shrunken man on the side of a stage, being pointed at by another figure. In the center of the stage is principal Rushell White, likened to a multi-armed Hindu goddess, standing beside four other figures, who, Possner said, represent the school’s other assistant principals. Above them hangs a banner that features the biblical quote, “Whom much is given much is required,” which White reads every morning over the school’s speaker system, according to Possner.
The painting was reportedly placed on school grounds at White’s request, according to Daily Mail.
Possner claimed in a federal lawsuit filed last fall that White, who is a Christian, called him a “bad Jew” for using his phone on Yom Kippur in 2014. The educator said that White had humiliated him in front of other staff members, and that he feels his characterization in the mural is an additional attempt at shaming him. He believes White portrayed him as a “castoff” in “retaliation” for the lawsuit.
“It is very offensive and bizarre to me,” Possner, 42, told the Daily Mail. “The entire staff thought it was disrespectful. I have had children come up and ask me, ‘Why do they look like that?’ It’s not appropriate.”
When asked by the Daily Mail for a comment from White about the mural, the person who answered the phone at the junior high simply disconnected the call. Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the non-profit foundation reportedly commissioned to paint the mural, did not respond to requests for a comment. Education Department officials said that, after investigating the painting, they had it taken down on Monday, Daily Mail reported.
Joseph Concannon, who is planning to run for City Councilman next year, said he met Possner and has been following the assistant principal’s lawsuit against White. He said he saw the mural, which he called “outrageous.”
“She’s doing this,” Concannon said about White, “knowing full well this guy has a federal suit against her. It seems she is creating a hostile workplace environment.”
The mural also upset the school’s Hindu student body, according to the New York Daily News. One student said, “It makes me feel bad about my culture. When I first saw it, I was like, “Wow, why did they do that? They should take it down.”‘
White declined comment outside the school. The principal was previously accused of cheating on state exams by multiple staffers in 2012 but was never charged, the Daily News reported. She is currently being investigated by the city for failing to report allegations of child abuse and other offenses.