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Los Angeles public school board passes resolution to address antisemitism

Public school board members in Los Angeles voted Tuesday to require updated resources and training to prevent antisemitism on and off school campuses, part of a broad resolution to address “a significant rise in hate crimes here in Los Angeles.”

Put forth by Board of Education member Scott Schmerelson, the resolution also requires all history and science teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s K-12 system “to teach the positive contributions of Jewish peoples in order to reduce anti-Jewish hate speech and hate-motivated behavior and incidents” and it orders the Superintendent Austin Beutner to direct all schools and offices “to affirm the rights of Jewish students, staff, and families” and report any antisemitic acts.

The district also is to establish a curriculum and professional development working group that will recruit and compensate teachers and administrators with expertise in Jewish history, culture and the Holocaust to update curriculum and recommend reading lists and other resources “to ensure they are inclusive and reflective of best practices and the full diversity of Jewish people including those in California and Los Angeles.”

Israeli-American Civic Action Network praised the resolution as aiming to “dismantle systemic antisemitism in and around LAUSD schools” and said it’s “a critical step forward to improve the safety of our Jewish and Israeli students, teachers, and parents.”

Others believe the resolution doesn’t go far enough, including members of California Students United. Last month that group condemned “blatant antisemitism” within the United Teachers of Los Angeles public union and called for swift action against President Cecily Myart-Cruz.

Cecily Myart-Cruz

Cecily Myart-Cruz Courtesy of UTLA

The group’s June 1 letter followed a vote by a regional chapter of the union that called for the United States to cease all aid to Israel. The Anti-Defamation League also said the resolution “makes problematic and biased assumptions, including blaming the recent outbreak of violence solely on Israel.”

Union leadership is to vote on the resolution in September, and the ADL warned in a July 10 news release that the issue “continues to fracture the education community and, in recent weeks, has raised the specter of members defecting from the union should the resolution pass.”

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, California Students United members praised the new resolution against antisemitism but also said they feel their past complaints have not been addressed.

“Your silence has been seen as complacent,” parent and organizer Danna Rosenthal said at the meeting.

Rosenthal and Nazanin Cohen called on the board to denounce anti-Zionism as well, but board member Jackie Goldberg warned her colleagues not to stifle discussions about Israeli policy.

“We need to be able to have discussions in schools about what is an Israeli government that is fair to all,” Goldberg said. “We have got to stop using antisemitic to mean anything other than antisemitic. You can have serious concerns with Israeli policy, or you can agree with every one of them. Neither of those make you antisemitic, and we have got to make that distinction as we discuss this.”

Goldberg said she’s bracing to be called antisemitic because of her comments, but she said she’s proud to be Jewish.

“Call me what you want to call me, but I care about Israel’s existence, and I think its existence is much more likely to continue if those of us who support it are critical of the policies that are undermining its reality,” Goldberg said.

The seven-member board passed the resolution unanimously after hearing from several supportive educators, including Lisa DeRoss and Irina Sugar of the Association of Jewish Educators.

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