Alarming rise in American Jewish children’s complaints of antisemitism at school

Most of the Israeli-American community sends their children to public schools and this is exactly where the hate is coming from.

A school bus used for transporting New York City public school students is seen driving down 135th avenue in the Queens borough of New York  (photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)
A school bus used for transporting New York City public school students is seen driving down 135th avenue in the Queens borough of New York
(photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

The School Watch initiative of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) has reported a rise of hundreds of percents of complaints on behalf of Jewish children on antisemitism in schools, just a year after the watchdog’s founding.

School Watch was designed to “contribute to a safe school environment and reduce incidents of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, national origin discrimination and hate,” according to its mission statement.

Students, parents or educators who have experienced antisemitism or encountered antisemitic or anti-Zionist content in schools are able to file complaints. The IAC then brings them to the attention of the school or district levels who follow them through.

I cannot remember the last time that there were so many cases of teenagers using the word ‘Hitler’ in American public schools,” IAC’s CEO Shoham Nicolet told The Jerusalem Post from his home in California.

There has been a rise of incidents in public schools overall, he said, adding that he thinks some of them may be credited to the antisemitic statements made recently by rapper Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving.

 Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) steps over Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) after fighting for a loose ball in the second quarter at Barclays Center. (credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS) Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) steps over Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) after fighting for a loose ball in the second quarter at Barclays Center. (credit: WENDELL CRUZ-USA TODAY SPORTS)

“It doesn’t matter if Adidas or Nike cancel their contracts with West and Irving, the message of hate is out there, rooted in classic and ancient antisemitism,” Nicolet said.

“In the past two to three weeks we have seen a dramatic deterioration in the situation regarding antisemitism in US public schools. I am very worried by this situation,” he added.

Antisemitic hate coming from US public schools

The council president explained that most of the Israeli-American community sends their children to public schools and that this is exactly where the hate is coming from.

“I don’t think that Israel fully understands the depth of the strategic significance and effect that these antisemitic incidents have on Israel’s perception in the US,” Nicolet said. Most of the funds and resources about combating antisemitism are geared toward young adults while studying in college, he said, yet in his eyes, its about time for Israel to fund these types of programs for younger audiences.

“We all know that BDS organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and others have been active on college campuses for many years. But what about high school students, like those who filed a complaint with us from Colorado, [who say] that teenagers threatened a Jewish student to wear a gas mask? Hate and incitement have become more popular at younger ages: We need to combat it.”

Another phenomena that Nicolet and his team are seeing is that many parents, especially Israeli-Americans, aren’t always aware of the fact that their child or they themselves experienced antisemitism. “Many parents – as well as the children themselves – don’t understand that what is being said to their child is actually antisemitic,” he explained. School Watch is also working on advocacy on that front.

“Antisemitism is new to Israeli-Americans,” Nicolet explained. He pointed out that Israelis living in the US, as opposed to American Jews, “are still learning what it means to be a minority. It’s a matter of awareness.”

School Watch shared a number of photos of incidents of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in American schools.

One of them depicts a physics teacher who wrote “Overthrow the colonizers – stand with Palestine,” on a whiteboard in a Massachusetts school. Another shows a Hitler meme hung in a classroom by a teacher in California, that reads “rock, paper and scissors.”

Further documentation shows that at a Georgia school, a teacher gave out a worksheet about the Jordan River water crisis, positioning Israel, and the Jews, as stealing water: “The Jews have literally taken the water from our children’s hands.”

“We handle every request,” Nicolet said, adding that they work in conjunction with all Jewish organizations that deal with these matters as well as local authorities. “If a parent needs to be prepared for a meeting with a school principal, we will prepare them,” he shared.

The complaints on School Watch can be filed anonymously; however, in cases where the person filing the complaint would like to remain involved in the suit, the IAC will guide them on how to approach the school.

Children, parents or teachers who would like to file a complaint can visit: https://www.schoolwatch.me/