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Antisemitism in our schools is way too common

LI Herald

By Avi Posnick

October 26, 2023

In May, I took part in a special hearing convened by the Nassau County Legislature’s Special Legislative Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in Nassau County. The hearing gave students, parents, rabbis and other interested members of the community the opportunity to share information about personal antisemitic experiences and incidents. I, and many of my task force colleagues, were horrified by some of the stories we heard.

I am so proud of the students who came and had the confidence to speak up, knowing that what they said would be entered into the public record. The hearing was also recorded and covered by a number of media outlets. We heard horrendous stories, which included accounts of swastikas found on school property (in some cases left unaddressed for weeks) and antisemitic comments directed at Jewish students, among other things.

What shocked me the most — and is truly concerning — is how normalized and “casual” the antisemitism seems to be. In all my years of working to fight antisemitism and hate, I knew students were facing antisemitic incidents, but never thought it would be considered so normal among students in our local schools.

Following the hearing, the task force convened a special meeting, which I had the honor to chair, consisting of superintendents and principals from a number of county school districts. This gave us an opportunity to learn what steps they are taking to combat antisemitism, both proactively and responsively. I heard many positive and encouraging remarks from the administrators in attendance, including two points that I believe we all must take to heart and implement.

First, whenever an antisemitic or hateful incident occurs, the school must not attempt to hide the matter out of a concern for negative publicity. The school should instead be transparent, and notify the school community about the situation and outline how the administration is addressing it. Schools need to identify both what the community can do to fight antisemitism and hate and outline concrete steps it is taking toward that end.

Administrators who properly and promptly condemn and respond to antisemitism have friends in a number of groups, including my organization, StandWithUs, that are ready to support and partner with them, and to provide the resources and assistance they need. Second, as one superintendent made clear, there should be greater outrage when it comes to instances of antisemitism. Sadly, that is not always the case. For example, when students or visitors at school events spew antisemitic slurs and other hateful rhetoric, it is insufficient simply to tell the offenders to “be nice” and then continue the event in a business-as-usual manner. When something like this happens, the authorities responsible for the event should express outrage and stop the activity until the perpetrators are removed and all attendees have an equal opportunity to participate and enjoy the activity.

I understand that this kind of response doesn’t happen overnight. It happens only if the right boundaries and understanding are established. Antisemitism can be difficult to identify. Through the Special Legislative Task Force, StandWithUs and other groups have shared their clear commitment to fighting anti-Jewish bigotry.

Unfortunately, antisemitic incidents, which can lead to physical altercations, are escalating due to Israel's fight to root out Hamas from Gaza after its horrendous attack on innocent civilians living in Israel's southern cities. They will escalate as the battle continues. It is incumbent on administrators to take strong stands against these attacks and appropriate action against the perpetrators. It is also incumbent for our educators to use appropriate resources and information when talking about the current situation.

There are educational materials, policy recommendations, and training for administrators, teachers and students that focus on how to identify antisemitism and ways to address antisemitic incidents.

As we continue the new school year, I hope our amazing schools in Nassau County, across Long Island and throughout the Northeast will take advantage of the resources being offered and commit to implementing best practices to ensure the safety, well-being, and equal educational opportunities for all students in these communities.

Avi Posnick is the executive director of StandWithUs Northeast & New England, and a member of the Special Legislative Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in Nassau County. StandWithUs is an international, nonpartisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.

Read the full article HERE.


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