East Ramapo School District Board in Federal Court: UPDATE
“Eric Goodwin was on his way home in May 2017, as voters headed to the polls to pick the winning candidates for seats on the East Ramapo Central School District board.
Goodwin, a candidate for the board that year, noticed buses streaming into voting sites in predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods near his Nanuet home.
When he got home, Goodwin tapped out a post on his Facebook page:
“The night before the election an(d) those who want to keep the balance of power in their favor. Spending the night at your religious establishments will not mask your master plan. East Ramapo is watching your every move.”
Goodwin lost the election that year.
On Friday, he appeared in a federal courtroom in White Plains as one of the plaintiffs in a voting rights case brought by the Spring Valley chapter of the NAACP and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The organizations say the district’s method for selecting school board members discriminates against blacks and Latinos.
Goodwin’s testimony touched on his efforts to make inroads in the Orthodox Jewish community during his unsuccessful run for the board.
But, as it drew to a close, district attorneys homed in on Goodwin’s choice of two words – “master plan” — in his Facebook post, which some took to be a veiled reference to the Nazi plan to kill Jews.
“It wasn’t intended to be anti-Semitic,” Goodwin testified.
In fact, he was thinking of a phrase from a rap song when he typed the words.
The brief exchange captured the tension bubbling near the surface of a voting rights case that pits the interests of black and Latinos against those of their Orthodox Jewish neighbors.
In recent years, Orthodox Jews have come to dominate seats on the nine-member school board.
That has led to budgets that favor some 27,000 private school students, nearly all of whom attend private yeshivas, who are bused to school with district funds, NYCLU lawyers say.
Meanwhile, they say, a district that once offered one of the finest public educations in Rockland County has seen its graduation rates plummet to 62 percent after years of drastic budget cuts led to the elimination of 400 teachers as well honors and advancement placement courses.
Goodwin, an Army veteran of 32 years who was awarded the Bronze Star for combat valor, said Orthodox Jewish candidates for the board never bothered to campaign in black and Latino neighborhoods.
He said he didn’t even know what his opponent’s platform was.
“I knew nothing about Mr. (Joel) Freilch or his platform the entire campaign,” Goodwin testified.”
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.