COUNTERING K-12 ANTISEMITISM

Express Newsletter – May 2024

By Dr. Brandy Shufutinsky

By Dr. Brandy Shufutinsky

Director of Education and Community Engagement

Over the past months since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel many have been shocked by the blatant support of terrorism against Jews. This shock has likely been exacerbated because of the groups of Americans who have taken the side of Hamas, justifying acts of violence, not only in Israel, but also here in the US. Students, parents, and concerned citizens have been surprised that teachers have excused and even encouraged behavior that would be roundly condemned if aimed at any other minority community. Thankfully, there are also many who denounce this abhorrent behavior.

Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have made it their mission to hold those individuals who are responsible for the well-being of students, namely teachers and administrators, accountable for their inaction when it comes to addressing antisemitism. On May 8, 2024, the Committee kept their word and held a hearing on antisemitism in K12 education, calling administrators from three U.S. school districts to testify before the committee and the nation.

Over the course of  two months before the hearing, I, along with a select number of experts, teachers, students, and parents worked tirelessly, providing Committee members with details on antisemitic incidents. 

While I was encouraged with what transpired at the hearing, others expressed their disappointment. Some felt that the administrators got off lightly – able to skate past the truth and placate the Committee with vague promises to take “action” when confronting antisemitism. I disagree. I knew going into the hearing that it was a necessary first step in confronting Jew-hatred in the K12 education system. I also expected district leaders to dance around the truth of just how rampant antisemitism is in the districts they are responsible for. I was not surprised that Berkeley USD Superintendent flat-out denied that antisemitism is a problem in her district.

What left me hopeful and energized is that all three administrators behaved the way they did publicly, exposing just how deep the Jew-hating rot goes.

CapitolHill

David Bernstein, JILV CEO, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC 5), and Dr. Brandy Shufutinsky

We saw it back in December with the presidents of three major universities and we saw it this month with three notable school districts in the United States. Now, it is up to us to hold them accountable. The Committee hearing provided us a road map to do just that – and we are well on our way, strategizing next steps. 

First, we have to make sure that the falsehoods stated by the administrators are corrected. New York City School Chancellor Banks alluded that a principal was terminated for allowing antisemitism to fester at his school, when he was simply shuffled to another, arguably higher profile, position within the NY Department of Education. Second, we need to track the outside actors who are fueling Jew-hatred within our public schools. Berkeley Superintendent Ford Morthel admitted to contracting with Liberated Ethnic Studies as “thought partners”.

Organizations that contribute to divisiveness should not be partnering with public school districts. A third step we should take is to provide support to the teachers who are speaking out and exposing the antisemitism in their districts. In Montgomery County Maryland a number of teachers are risking their careers by publicly condemning professional development initiatives that are directly fueling antisemitism and bigotry. These are just the first of many steps we will be taking over the next few months to root out antisemitism in our K12 school system, and we look forward to doing it with your help. 

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