(March 18, 2022 / JNS) A Jewish member of Congress is calling on U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to hold schools accountable for creating hostile and unsafe environments for Jewish students by implementing anti-Semitic “ethnic studies” curricula in their district.
In a letter to Cardona late last week, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said he was troubled by certain model ethnic-studies curricula that have been brought to his attention, which diverged from the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. government.
One example Gottheimer noted in the letter defined anti-Semitism as “discrimination against, violence towards or stereotypes of Jews for being Jewish,” while claiming that “criticism of Israel’s policies of apartheid and oppression of Palestinians is not anti-Semitism.” This and other parts in the curriculum vilified all forms of Zionism and denied the Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavor—something considered to be anti-Semitism by the IHRA.
“We must promote civil discourse and a high-quality, inclusive cultural education that lifts up marginalized communities rather than teaching antagonistic values in our public schools,” he wrote in a letter obtained by JNS. “Our civic education should be free of bias against any group. We need a united, all-of-government effort to combat rising anti-Semitism and bigotry, including ensuring that we do not fund this type of dangerous and exclusionary curricula in our schools.”
Gottheimer called for a bipartisan, national-level commitment to address the threat of anti-Semitism and bigotry, by encouraging school districts to develop model curricula that strengthen critical thinking and understanding.
“We cannot support a curriculum that reinforces negative stereotypes about Jewish people or other marginalized groups in our public schools,” he wrote. “Sadly, we have learned from our history that when this type of rhetoric goes unaddressed, it can fuel increasing hatred, violence and lead to unspeakable acts against Jewish people and other marginalized groups.”
Most recently, Jewish organizations in California joined together to successfully remove anti-Semitic parts of California’s statewide ethnic-studies curriculum proposal, but there are other ethnic studies programs are being developed throughout the United States.
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