Mt. Eden high school in Hayward. (Photo/Facebook)
Mt. Eden high school in Hayward. (Photo/Facebook)

Hayward teacher placed on leave after teaching antisemitic conspiracies

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Henry Bens, the Hayward high school teacher who assigned his students an antisemitic conspiracy pamphlet as reading material in his 10th grade English class, has been placed on leave, according to the district.

Hayward Unified School District spokesperson Lauren McDermott confirmed to J. that Bens will not be in the classroom at Mt. Eden high school next week when school is back in session after a weeklong holiday.

“He is on leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” McDermott wrote in an email.

The school administration was alerted in December after Bens supplemented district-required material on the Holocaust with a handout that is a well-known antisemitic text.

The Hidden Tyranny,” a 42-page document published by a group called the New Christian Crusade Church, purports to expose Jewish secrets for world domination through manipulation of U.S. political leaders. Its subtitle in part is the “Satanic Power which Promotes and Directs Chaos in Order to Lay Low All Civilization in Preparation for a Well-Outlined Plan for World Dictatorship.”

Henry Bens

According to students, Bens asked his classes to annotate the text and highlight important sections about how Jews control and manipulate power structures. On numerous occasions he also made the “Heil Hitler” salute, students said.

Students also said Bens told his classes that the truth had been hidden from them and that he was helping them “remove the blindfold.”

Staff and students brought the matter to the attention of the Mt. Eden administration, and subsequently the school district and school board, which heard public comment on the matter on Feb. 15.

Ruchita Verma, an 18-year-old senior at Mt. Eden, is helping students organize to demand action. Though she has not had Bens as a teacher, she is speaking on behalf of friends and peers who have been in his classes.

“It’s a wonderful first step to investigate. However, students and staff are also concerned with the lack of accountability in our district,” she said. “It shouldn’t take over two months and public outcry for intervention to take place. Students have already learned hate speech, and remediation is pending.”

Bens, who has taught at Mt. Eden for more than a decade, is also the pastor of a church in Alameda. Social media accounts under Bens’ name indicate that he has beliefs that align with certain elements of the Black Hebrew Israelites, including a reference to the three-hour film “Hebrews to Negroes,” which presents the conspiracy theory that Jews have stolen the identity of Black people, who are in fact the “true Jews.” A Facebook post dated Nov. 6, 2022, calls 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust “converted Jewish people, whose ancestral origins are in southern Russia.”

Reached by phone by a J. reporter Wednesday, Bens declined to comment.