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Teachers at Jewish Religious School in Detroit Threaten to Strike

Congregation Shaarey Zedek leaders here were striving over this holiday weekend to avert a crisis in the synagogue’s religious school that could lead to a strike of teachers at the end of this month. A meeting for this purpose has been called for Sunday, after a similar all-night meeting Tuesday had failed to reach an accord. The feeling is that the issue must be resolved before the congregation’s semi-annual meeting next Thursday.

The issue commenced with the school’s recently formed teachers’ association request for recognition as a collective bargaining agency. The teachers association took its request to the State Mediation Board. One day before the official election meeting on September 13, at the State Board’s direction, the president and vice-president of the newly formed association, Sol Panush, who had taught at the school for 25 years, and Jacob Gilani, a teacher with a six-year record at the school, were summarily dismissed.

Since then, the teachers of the school, acting unanimously, registered an unfair labor practice charge against the synagogue. On October 1, they filed notice of intention to strike on October 23 unless the synagogue acted to adjust the grievances. The Mediation Board hearing on the dismissals will be held November 7. The congregation has now offered to rescind its dismissal notice pending a din torah (religious hearing). A letter is being sent to the membership explaining the situation.

Supporting the Shaarey Zedek teachers, the teaching staffs of the United Hebrew Schools’ Hillel Day School, Congregation Beth Shalom, and Congregation B’nai David unanimously submitted protests against Shaarey Zedek’s actions. A group of Shaarey Zedek members issued a public statement urging all members to come to Thursday’s meeting and to “express concern” over what had occurred. For the second week in succession the Jewish News here urged this week proper arbitration by internal communal means “to avert linen washing in public.”

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