U.S. Rabbi Michael Feinberg defended a planned Arab school in New York on Monday, despite charges by a state legislator that the school could teach anti-Israeli extremism.
Addressing a rally in front of the New York Department of Education, Rabbi Feinberg called on elected officials to come forward in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is scheduled to open on September 4.
Rabbi Feinberg called the virulent Internet campaign against the school "the lowest of McCarthyite tactics." State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, however, slammed the school as a breeding ground for extremism.
"It will not, as suggested, be a hope for peace; it is a blueprint for anti-Israel and anti-U.S. extremism," Hikind said, adding that the school has been endorsed by radical groups.
Education Department officials have said religion will not be taught at the school, which will focus instead on Arabic language and Arab culture. Schools that specialize in a specific topic or culture are common in New York.
"Unless we all send a clear message that racist comments associating Arabic language and culture with terrorism will not be tolerated, we will continue to hear them again and again," the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and other community groups said Monday in a statement.