Evesham school board member resigns in anti-Semitic controversy

Rosemary Bernardi also resigned from a state group.
Rosemary Bernardi also resigned from a state group.
Posted: June 15, 2013

Rosemary Bernardi, accused of making anti-Semitic remarks at an Evesham school board meeting, resigned from the board Thursday and also as vice president of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

In her resignation letter to the district, Bernardi said she was stepping down because the controversy had "become a distraction."

Bernardi, 43, is alleged to have made remarks at the May 23 board meeting that seemed to urge the town's non-Jewish residents to seek seats on the board to dilute the influence of its Jewish members. She has said her remarks were misconstrued, but she apologized.

A former school board president now in her third term, she said in the letter that she was "proud of my record" and wished to "thank everyone for their support."

She did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Board President Sandy Student welcomed her resignations from both boards. "There were so many negatives swirling around as a result" of her alleged remarks, he said. "It made her tenure very, very difficult."

Her resignation from the nine-member board came hours after she resigned from the state association, which had asked her to step down as its legislative vice president.

"Any other action would have been unacceptable," association president John Bulina and executive director Lawrence S. Feinsod said in a statement.

A lobbying and advocacy organization, the association represents the state's 586 local boards of education and 78 charter schools.

According to some who attended the May 23 meeting, Bernardi seemed irked when the board voted to reschedule the start of classes in September to avoid a conflict with Rosh Hashanah.

"It's up to the parents to keep their kids home," she allegedly said, "all seven or eight Jews who live in our district."

According to Marc Cohen, a Philadelphia schoolteacher and Evesham resident who had requested the change, Bernardi reminded the audience at the close of the meeting that June 4 was the filing date for anyone wishing to run for a seat on the school board and said, "There are three seats up, and there are five Jews on the board."

There is no audio record of the meeting.

On June 5, the board voted unanimously to authorize appointment of a special counsel to investigate those alleged remarks. Several of the 30 people who spoke at that meeting insisted that Bernardi did not utter those words, while others were emphatic that she did.

On Tuesday, the Evesham Township Council voted unanimously for Bernardi to resign from the board, saying her "anti-Semitic and bigoted sentiments" were "abhorrent in a community like Evesham."

Student, who had also sought her resignation, said Thursday that her continued presence on the board sent a wrong signal to the district's 4,700 pupils.

Any student, he said, who made remarks similar to those attributed to Bernardi "would be sanctioned."


Contact David O'Reilly at 856-779-3841 or doreilly@phillynews.com, or follow

on Twitter @doreillyinq.

 

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