update deskSchools & Higher Education

Canadian school district flips decision to replace Jewish star on calendar

Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called it “outrageous” that the York Region District School Board had considered not using the symbol.

Jewish star or Star of David. Credit: Mauistik/Pixabay.
Jewish star or Star of David. Credit: Mauistik/Pixabay.

The York Region District School Board in Ontario reversed its decision to use a menorah rather than a Star of David to represent Judaism on its interfaith calendar. It had previously said it wanted a “purely religious,” rather than a political symbol.

“We have received concerns regarding a social-media post and an email explaining the rationale for the use of a menorah as the symbol for Jewish holidays and observances,” stated Bill Cober, the district director and its chief education officer, on May 9.

“This symbol has been used by the Multifaith Action Society in the multifaith calendar for several years, and no change was made this year,” Cober said. “However, as a result of feedback received regarding the existing symbolism, we will be making changes to the board’s online calendar to ensure it is representative of Jewish identity.”

He added that “we regret any hurt or harm caused by this matter and the content of an email being circulated online; we are taking immediate action to make the correction.”

Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center praised the decision to use the Star of David.

“Amid the current surge in antisemitism in this country, we are seeing aspects of Jewish identity, including the Star of David, attacked and demonized and increasing attempts to misconstrue it as political or even illegitimate,” stated Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the nonprofit’s senior director of policy and advocacy.

The group is grateful to the district “for acting quickly on our concerns and recognizing the harm caused to the Jewish community,” Kirzner-Roberts added.

“We want people of all faiths to be able to be proud of who they are, and I really want our energy and time to be focused on academics in our schools,” said Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s education minister.

The menorah is one of several symbols used to represent Judaism for many centuries before the Star of David, but the latter is a much more common stand-in for the Jewish faith in more recent decades.

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