Jewish Teacher Hides from Bronx Mob

“I was terrified.” The high school educator tells The Free Press she hid in locked classroom to escape anti-Israel protesters.

A Jewish teacher in the Bronx has told The Free Press how “terrified” staff and students had to hide in locked classrooms Thursday afternoon as 400 anti-Israel protesters charged through her school for two hours. 

The teacher, who did not wish to be named out of fear of retaliation from students and administrators, said she sheltered in her own locked office with pupils as other students—chanting “Free Gaza” and banging on the walls—ignored announcements ordering the school to lock down. 

“I was terrified,” the teacher told The Free Press. “They sounded really, really angry and really out of control. It just felt like complete chaos. And when things are completely out of control, who knows what’ll happen?”

She said school safety officers “tried to block the stairwells,” but were overwhelmed by protesters at the Christopher Columbus campus—which houses five different high schools and more than 2,000 students—on Thursday. The majority of students at all five schools are Hispanic and black and the vast majority are classified by the Department of Education as being in “economic need.” 

In her five years at the school, the teacher said she had never disclosed her Jewish identity because she was concerned about how pupils might react. “Even though they weren’t necessarily coming for me, it felt that way,” she said of her experience on Thursday. “It felt like I’m not wanted here.” 

Videos on social media show student protesters surging through packed school corridors carrying signs, some with fake blood on their hands and faces, chanting and clapping. 

Tova Plaut, a public school teacher in New York City and head of an advocacy group of Jewish NYC teachers and parents, told The Free Press the red-stained hands reminded her of the famous photo of a Palestinian holding two bloody hands outside a window in Ramallah in 2000 after lynching two Israeli reservist soldiers. 

“Seeing those red hands had a visceral effect,” she said. “It’s a direct threat to Jewish life. Those red hands say to the world ‘we celebrate the murder of Jews and we will do it again.’ ” 

The protest came almost precisely a week after New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks told Congress that “antisemitism will not stand on my watch.”

Banks was especially criticized at the House Education and Workforce subcommittee on May 8 for not firing the principal of Hillcrest High School in Queens where a mob of students targeted a Jewish teacher in November. 

Rep. Brandon Williams said to Banks, “How can Jewish students feel safe at New York City Public Schools when you can’t even manage to terminate the principal of ‘Open season on Jews’ high school?”

“It’s not ‘Open season on Jews’ school. It’s called Hillcrest High School,” Banks replied

Plaut, who attended the hearing, said, “Chancellor Banks’s words are just that: words. They’re empty. 

“We keep saying this is systemic. These are not isolated incidents. They’re all interconnected to each other. And it’s time that that be addressed,” she said. 

On Friday morning, principals of all five schools located on the Bronx campus sent a letter to parents notifying them that “students are expected to attend and remain in their classes throughout the day, and that leaving or failing to attend class and engaging in conduct that disrupts the education process can subject students to disciplinary action.” 

The teacher who spoke to The Free Press disputes many of the characterizations made in the letter. It states that the protest was only in the school’s “auditorium,” even though videos show students in multiple different hallways. In addition, the letter states that the protest ended after forty-five minutes, not two hours.

“The letter that my principal wrote really feels like they’re trying to cover it up,” she said.

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education said: “The best place for students during the school day is in the classroom. No injuries were reported, and students returned to their classes without incident. We have reminded school communities that demonstrations inside of the school building are not permitted.”

A spokesperson for the NYPD told The Free Press that the incident was dealt with by school safety officers.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, whose district includes the Bronx, told The Free Press that “The divisive politics that have shaken college campuses to the core has no place in the NYC public school system.

“No good will come of it,” he said. “The DOE has an obligation to prevent schools from becoming hostile environments for any and all minorities, including Jews. There should be no Jewish exception to the promise of a safe space.” 

This story has been updated to include a comment from the New York City Department of Education.

Additional reporting by Elias Wachtel.

Francesca Block is a reporter for The Free Press. Read her piece “NYC Schools Chief: ‘Qataris Write the Check’ ” and follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @FrancescaABlock

Become a Free Press subscriber today:

Subscribe now

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines