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February 23, 2023 5:49 pm

California School District Pulls Teacher Who Taught Antisemitic Conspiracies Out of Classroom


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Hayward High School teacher Henry Bens. Photo: Facebook.

A California high school teacher who taught his class antisemitic conspiracies has been placed on leave of absence, the Hayward Unified School District announced on Thursday.

As first reported by The Jewish News of Northern California, during a unit on Elie Wiesel’s memoir, titled Night, Hayward High School teacher Henry Bens assigned as class reading “The Hidden Tyranny,” an antisemitic pamphlet authored by a Holocaust denier  — Benjamin Freedman — that accuses the Jewish community of conspiring to subvert US power, control the media, and dominate the world politics. Bens, multiple students have alleged, also pantomimed the Nazi salute during lessons.

“Hayward Unified School District does not condone or tolerate any type of hateful or biased rhetoric, including antisemitism,” district spokesperson Lauren McDermott told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “We take these allegations very seriously, and the teacher alleged to have made much statements and used inappropriate materials is currently on a leave of absence.”

Students told Jewish News earlier this month that Bens repeatedly said everything they knew was a lie and that he would “remove the blindfold.” His behavior was first reported in December, but other students said it has persisted for several years. Despite numerous complaints to the administration and direct pleas at school board meetings, he remained in the classroom.

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“If I was alive during Hitler’s time, I would have an interview with him.” Bens can be heard saying, according to Jewish News, in an audio recording a student took in secret. “I would let him share his views.”

An Algemeiner analysis of Bens’ Facebook account revealed that he is an admirer of the Black Israelites and the film Hebrew to Negroes, an antisemitic documentary that became widely known after NBA player Kyrie Irving tweeted about it in October. In November, Bens posted about the controversy prompted by Irving’s tweet, saying, “Oh, is this the link Kyrie posted? Good looking bruh!” Later, he described as “slave master mentality” efforts to persuade Kyrie Irving to apologize for promoting Hebrews to Negroes, which, in addition to denying the Holocaust, accuses the Jewish community of stealing their religion from Blacks.

In another post, Bens shared a YouTube video defending Kanye West’s antisemitic rants and claiming that the rapper’s actions were similar to a 2002 incident in which late pop singer Michael Jackson had a public contract dispute with former Sony Music Entertainment CEO Tommy Mottola — who is Italian.

The Hayward Unified School District is in contact with the Anti-Defamation League to discuss a potential partnership, Teresa Drenick, the deputy regional director of the ADL’s Los Angeles office, told The Algemeiner during an interview.

“Our focus continues to be on getting the Hidden Tyranny pulled from the school,” Drenick said, “It is equally important that the kids who have been exposed to it be properly educated about the history it purports to cover and that the antisemitism they have absorbed be countered.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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