Leo Club Faces Backlash for “Peace in the East” Bake Sale

4 mins read

On Tuesday, October 27th, M-A’s Intercultural Leadership class advertised the Leo Club’s planned “Israeli Support Bake-Sale” on their Instagram. That evening, the post received backlash in the comment section. Comments included, “Crazy how a legitimate leadership group is supporting an ethnic cleansing,” and “why are you raising money for israel when the US already gives them billions of dollars?” The following day, the post was taken down.

Nevertheless, during lunch on Thursday, the Leo Club—M-A’s branch of an international youth public service organization—hosted the bake sale on the Green, with all proceeds going to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) humanitarian aid in Israel and Palestine. The club sold store-bought black-and-white cookies, a traditionally Jewish food.

Intercultural Leadership’s original post.
Backlash in the comment section.

Some of the bake sale’s posters.

The original Instagram post said, “All proceeds go to Israeli Red Cross.” However, one poster on the bake sale table said, “All proceeds go to UNICEF.” Another poster read, “All proceeds go to Magen David Adom,” Israel’s branch of the Red Cross. Sophomore Niklas Klemmer*, the bake sale’s organizer and president of the Leo Club, confirmed that all proceeds will be going to UNICEF.

Intercultural Leadership’s post did not include that the event was run by the Leo Club, so many believed the class itself was hosting the event rather than just promoting it.

Klemmer said, “Our original idea was to sell black-and-white cookies to raise money for citizens facing humanitarian crises in both Israel and Palestine. We decided to sell Jewish baked goods to address the rise of antisemitism that Jewish people have been facing both at M-A and in the world.”

However, sophomore Josie Weiss, who helped plan the bake sale, said, “It was originally an Israel support bake sale, which we take accountability for, but we changed it to also support innocent people in Gaza. There are many organizations that need money right now, but I see how if we’re doing something at school then we should include innocent Palestinians.”

The M-A Chronicle reached out to the Intercultural Leadership class, but both the teacher and students declined to comment.

Senior Aarya Ayyar, who commented, “Who thought this was a good idea,” on the promotional post, said, “I was frustrated when I first saw the post. I thought it was incredibly insensitive for Leadership to take sides in a war and create a bake sale in support of Israel, especially since Israel already receives billions in aid from the United States.”

Mar Hudson, a junior at Capuchino High School whose friend sent him the post, commented, “maybe don’t fundraise for a genocide?” He explained, “I could not believe that the school admin would approve such an event knowing how controversial and triggering it could be, especially for Jewish and Arab students who may be personally affected.”

Klemmer said, “I value the opinions and experiences of both Israelis and Jews as well as those of Palestinians and Arabs. If people wanted to have a civil conversation regarding the conflict and their disagreements, I would have been happy to have engaged in one. However, it was completely unacceptable to turn an Instagram comment section into a cesspool of hate and antisemitism.”

“I think M-A and, as an extension, Leadership, should remain neutral in this situation,” said Ayyar. “Supporting a side would lead to further division and alienation within M-A’s community. I think it would be fine for the organizers to host a similar event outside of school, though. I’m glad they took down the post. I hope it gives them time to reflect and move forward.”

“I was pissed off that they took the post down because it lets the people who I believe are spewing hate speech and spreading wrong information win,” said junior and Jewish Student Union vice president Lainey Egnal. “It should have been addressed, not ignored. The problem is that letting other people tell you what your cause should be about and why your cause is incorrect defeats the entire purpose of showing support for a cause.”

Weiss said, “Intercultural Leadership told us, ‘We don’t want this class to be associated with something controversial, it’s not our job to spread awareness for clubs,’ which was suspicious because they have posted for other clubs.”

Klemmer said, “I want to believe the decision to remove the post was to protect our students and to discourage online hate and harassment, but the way it was handled had an underlying tone of censorship.”

In response to the backlash, the bake sale organizers tried to clarify that the sale was meant to benefit all victims of the war, rather than solely support Israel. The organizers renamed the sale, “Peace in the East.”

Additionally, the bake sale was moved from after school in Fremont Park to during lunch on the Green. Klemmer explained, “Due to a rise in antisemitism and concerning comments surrounding our initiative, we felt safer doing it on campus.”

Intercultural Leadership’s Instagram hasn’t commented on the situation or posted an update about the sale moving to lunch since taking down the post.

M-A’s main Leadership class posted a photo of the bake sale on their Instagram story during lunch to advertise the event. In the story, both “Palestinian” and “Israeli” were misspelled.

Leadership’s story advertising the lunchtime bake sale.

Klemmer said, “We made sure to center our posters and flyers that described what our donations will be used for, and how we are facilitating the celebration of Jewish culture, which is currently under attack by Hamas. We hoped that people would understand that we are not grouping the actions of Hamas with Palestinians as well as not grouping the actions of the IDF/Israel with the millions of Jews around the world.”

Despite the controversy, Klemmer concluded, “The bake sale was a great success.” 

Weiss said, “We had many people that gave us money but didn’t even take a cookie, just because they supported the cause.”

*Niklas Klemmer is also a journalist for the M-A Chronicle.

Ben Siegel is a junior at M-A and in his second year of journalism. He is an Editor-in-Chief and manages Bear Tracks, the M-A Chronicle’s weekly newsletter. His opinion piece calling for improved Holocaust education was recognized by CSPA as the best personal opinion about an on-campus issue in 2023. You can find more of Ben’s music journalism at Riff Magazine.

Latest from Campus