WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street announced that Randi Weingarten, a teachers’ union leader who has become a prominent voice in national debates over COVID-19 and education, is joining its board.
The liberal Israel lobby’s announcement on Wednesday said Weingarten would be joined by John Yarmuth, a retired Jewish Democratic congressman from Kentucky; Cary Sherman, a former top recording industry executive; and Jon Greenwald, a veteran diplomat.
J Street also announced that its longtime chairman, Alan Solomont — an eldercare entrepreneur, former ambassador to Spain and major donor to Democratic campaigns — would be replaced by Peter Frey, a New York City-based investor who is currently the group’s vice chairman.
Weingarten, 65, who has served as president of the American Federation of Teachers for 15 years, has been an outspoken advocate for union engagement with Israel and within the labor movement, and has pushed back against efforts to boycott or isolate the country.
She has also been a critic of its right-wing governments, and this year has joined leading American Jews who have endorsed the Israeli mass protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul Israel’s courts. Weingarten has appeared in the past at J Street conferences, and has aligned with the group’s effort to lobby Congress to speak out more forcefully against Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Other stances Weingarten has taken have thrust her into culture-war debates. She became a lightning rod for conservative critics of teachers’ unions during the pandemic when she advocated caution in the reopening of schools due to the spread of COVID. She has also been targeted for advocating for gender and racial equity within school systems. Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, recently called her “the most dangerous person in the world”.