J Street, the left-wing lobby that serves “as the political home and voice for pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans,” named Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to its board on Wednesday.
AFT is one of the nation’s most powerful labor unions. Weingarten, who is Jewish, has been accused of harming children by pushing for public schools to shutter during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has said her emphasis was on protecting teachers and students.
J Street named the investor Peter Frey as chair of its board of directors. Also joining the board are diplomat Jon Greenwald; former Recording Industry Association CEO Cary Sherman; and John Yarumth, a former congressman.
On July 24, Weingarten and the head of another union referred to “a dark day for Israeli democracy” in a joint statement. “The push to topple democratic consensus in Israel by a right-wing, extreme government must be challenged,” they stated. “We pledge to do everything in our power to stand with the pro-democracy protesters and to protect democracy in Israel.”
In 2021, Weingarten told JTA that “American Jews are now part of the ownership class.” At the time, StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said Weingarten’s statement gave “undue legitimacy to antisemitic stereotypes.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition noted Weingarten’s appointment to the J Street board in a post on social media. “By welcoming radical teachers union boss Randi Weingarten—who consistently puts union bosses over students and parents—to its board, J Street is exposed, yet again, that it aligns with the worst of the far-left—this is just the latest example,” the RJC wrote.
Gregory Smith, chief of staff to Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) wrote that Weingarten’s appointment “checks out.”
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that has done more damage to children in America than Randi Weingarten,” Smith stated. “You’d be equally hard-pressed to find a group that has done more damage to bipartisan support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship than J Street.”
A 2010 profile of Weingarten in The Forward noted that the “leading Jew in labor wears pearls.”
“Teachers’ union leader Randi Weingarten doesn’t look like a stereotypical union boss,” Josh Nathan-Kazis wrote. “But when the diminutive Jewish lawyer in a black pantsuit and pearl earrings repeatedly banged her fist on a podium to punctuate a defense of her union before a small group of educators in Washington in April, she matched any old-school cigar chomper from the George Meany era.”
A labor activist told the Forward at the time that “People think there’s more in her future than simply to remain in perpetuity at the head of the AFT.”
In June, an Israeli minister referred to J Street as “a hostile organization that harms the interests of the State of Israel.” In December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a keynote lecture at J Street’s national conference in Washington that Arab states can leverage the Abraham Accords to pressure Israel.