Parents of children attending a Muslim school in New York are furious that an English teacher, Nina Kossman, above, told a class that Adam and Eve did not exist.
They are even angrier with Kossman for showing pupils a picture of the naked pair by 17th-Century artist Paul Rubens.
Imani Al-Amin, an assistant to the principal at Razi School in Woodside, Queens, told Kossman:
The parents were in shock – in a fury.
He told her that a group of angry parents showed up at the school the next day to complain that she:
Discussed Jews with them and showed them pictures of naked people. You have to understand that this is a different environment.
Kossman was cast out of Razi and exiled to a Department of Education “rubber room”, a Queens office used for educators facing discipline. While she does nothing but menial paperwork, taxpayers have to foot her $90,000 salary.
Trouble erupted during a discussion with third grade pupils. The teacher explained:
One girl was trying to say that girls are as important as boys because without women there would not be any men.
The girl turned to Kossman:
Teacher, all people are born from a woman’s belly, right?
Kossman agreed, but a boy chimed in:
One person was not born from a woman’s belly – Adam!
It’s just a story, a myth. It’s not real.
The boy objected:
Adam is not a story! He is real!
But Kossman persisted:
The story of Adam and Eve belongs to three religions first Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam.
When some kids said they didn’t believe it, Kossman opened her laptop and called up the Wikipedia page on Adam and Eve. Up popped the famous painting by 17th-Century artist Paul Rubens of nude Adam and Eve. The kids cried:
Ooh! Naked people! We’re not allowed to look at naked people!
Kossman said she covered the picture with her hands, but read from the Wikipedia entry, which says Adam and Eve is a “creation myth” of the three religions.
With kids still calling her wrong, Kossman insisted:
Well, it’s up to you to think that, but it happens to be true.
An NYU Islamic studies professor who did not want to be named criticised Kossman:
Many religious people think that someone in the scripture is actually an historical truth. To say it is a myth can be deemed offensive.
Kossman said she’s never gotten in trouble before. Since 1991, the DOE has sent her to about 20 religious schools, mostly Catholic but several yeshivas and one other Muslim school. She was assigned to Razi in September 2014.
She teaches English as a second language to students who speak Urdu, Bengali, Farsi and Arabic at home, using fairy tales and literature in lessons. She said:
The children like me very much. They like my classes.
Kossman, who emigrated from Russia to the US with her parents in 1973, describes herself as non-religious. She has written seven books, including her own poetry and translations, and an autobiography of her childhood in the Soviet Union. She is also a painter and sculptor.
DOE teachers assigned to non-public schools “don’t have any specific guidelines,” Kossman said.
It’s generally understood that we should not talk about religion to students. I probably should have avoided talking about it.
Al-Amin and Principal Ghassan Elcheikhali refused to comment, referring questions to the DOE, which said Kossman is under investigation.