Doug Mastriano’s claims about Main Line Jewish school draw rebuke from alumnus Jake Tapper

Rob Tornoe
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
In this file photo from July 31, 2019, CNN moderator Jake Tapper speaks to the crowd attending the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — CNN host Jake Tapper didn’t take kindly to Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano attacking his high school.

On Thursday’s The Lead, Tapper — who was raised in Queen Village and Merion — rebuked Mastriano for comments he made about Bryn Mawr’s Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy during a campaign speech livestreamed on Facebook Wednesday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro is also a graduate of the Jewish school, which Mastriano claimed was “one of the most privileged schools in the nation.”

“Sending his four kids to the same privileged, exclusive elite school. … We talk about him having disdain for people like us,” Mastriano said of Shapiro.

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“I happen to know a little bit about the ‘privileged school’ Mr. Mastriano is attacking, because I went there, too,” Tapper said on Thursday’s show.

Tapper is a 1987 graduate of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, which was formerly called the Akiba Hebrew Academy. He was four years ahead of Shapiro, who graduated in 1991, and painted the school as an inclusive institution welcoming families of varying backgrounds and financial status.

According to the school’s website, tuition for the 2022-23 school year for grades 10 through 12 runs $37,600. Tapper said more than 60% of the student body gets some form of tuition assistance, a number confirmed by a school spokesperson.

“A lot of kids got financial aid, including a lot of kids who, with their parents, had escaped anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and were trying to build better lives for themselves in the Philadelphia area,” Tapper said of his experience at the school when he attended in the 1980s.

“I don’t think I have ever heard Mr. Mastriano describe any other Pennsylvania parochial schools in that way, elite, exclusive, privileged, full of disdain for fellow Americans. Philadelphia has a ton of fancy prep schools, but Akiba Hebrew Academy was not one of them.”

“For over 76 years, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (formerly known as Akiba) has educated young people to cherish their Jewish and American heritage, and to help better the world,” the school said in a statement. “Barrack has been and remains committed to economic and geographic diversity — making our values-guided education accessible to a broad range of students and families who come from more than 60 zip codes, 3 states, and a variety of backgrounds.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Mastriano has a history of dealing only with conservative media outlets.

Tapper highlighted Mastriano’s ties with Gab, a right-wing social media platform known for its anti-Semitic postings. Mastriano deleted his account in June, said he rejected “anti-Semitism in any form,” and backed off his support of Gab founder Andrew Torba after paying the platform for consulting services. The platform was used by Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

“I should also note that contrary to what Mr. Mastriano suggested, the Jewish values taught there did not teach disdain,” Tapper said of the school. “So I’m not sure what Mr. Mastriano means when he refers to people like Josh Shapiro having disdain for people like us. The only disdain I ever felt there was for anti-Semites.”

Eric Columbus, who served as senior counsel in the Department of Justice and general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security during former president Barack Obama’s administration, also called out Mastriano’s remarks.

“This is an antisemitic dog whistle from Mastriano,” Columbus wrote on Twitter. “Had Shapiro gone to Catholic schools rather than Jewish ones, Mastriano wouldn’t have attacked him for it.”