NYC School Official Says ‘Grinch’ Story Was Libel

BROOKLYN (CN) – A New York City official dubbed the “Grinch of Jewish holidays” in a New York Post article sued the newspaper, two reporters and two sources, claiming they defamed her by portraying her as biased against Judaism.

The October 2016 article claimed that Brenda Morgan, who serves as an executive administrator for the city’s Department of Education responsible for scheduling public school varsity volleyball games, had told high school volleyball coaches they couldn’t reschedule two games that had been set for the night before Yom Kippur.

“She’s the Grinch of Jewish holidays,” the Post article begins.

In the article, one of the coaches, Edward Shechtman of Martin Van Buren High School, was quoted as saying Morgan “was being like a Nazi” and insinuated she had an anti-Jewish prejudice.

“Would she have scheduled these games on Christmas Eve? I doubt it,” Shechtman reportedly said.

The Post article quoted an email from Morgan telling Shechtman to “get a replacement/substitute coach or forfeit the game.”

However, Morgan claims in her Jan. 6 lawsuit that this is all false. The complaint, filed in Kings County Supreme Court, alleges the two New York Post reporters who reported and wrote the story lied when they called Morgan a “Grinch” and falsely stated she had hung up on them when called to comment on the story.

“[Morgan] has never acted like a Nazi, a Grinch of Jewish holidays, is not biased against Jewish holidays in favor of Christian holidays and was never contacted by phone by any of the defendants prior to publication of the subject article,” the 12-page lawsuit states.

Morgan claims the statements in the Post article exceed “the bounds of decency in a civilized society.”

Yom Kippur is considered one of Judaism’s high holy days, and the night before is spent fasting after a large meal, often with extended family. The New York City Department of Education recognizes Yom Kippur as a holiday but not the night before.

The four coaches involved in the two games had reportedly agreed to postpone the match until nearly two weeks later.

In addition to the New York Post, Morgan’s lawsuit names as defendants Shechtman and fellow volleyball coach Gail Rothfeld of Beach Channel High School, who also was quoted in the October article complaining of the rescheduling denial.

According to the article, Rothfeld emailed Morgan in August asking for a schedule change due to the holiness of Yom Kippur, saying that “the game can be changed, but the holiday cannot.”

The Oct. 11 games were canceled two days before the Post article was published, according to the newspaper.

Post reporters Melkorka Licea and Susan Edelman are also named as defendants.

Brooklyn-based attorney Keith White, who represents Morgan, said the lawsuit is his client’s “attempt at justice and clearing her name.”

White said Morgan has been receiving threatening emails and phone calls since the story ran, and that her “workplace environment has been affected,” but he declined to elaborate further.

Morgan seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for claims of defamation, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A message left with the New York Post’s human resources department was not immediately returned.

Shechtman did not return an email seeking comment. Rothfield could not be reached Monday.

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