ICAN Hosts California Students, Parents, and Educators at Groundbreaking Statewide Summit to Combat Antisemitism in Public Schools

Los Angeles, CA – In a landmark event, the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN), in collaboration with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, ClubZ, JIMENA, the Combat Antisemitism Movement, the Jewish Federation of Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, and the Deborah Project, hosted the Combating Antisemitism Summit for California Schools on February 28, 2024.

Local community groups also participated, including JewishLAUSD Students, Parents, and Educators, Sequoia Union High School District Jewish Parents and Allies Union, Bay Area Jewish Coalition, BUSD Jewish Parents Advocacy Group (Berkeley), Jewish Allies Group of SFUSD, Marin Jewish Parents & Allies Union, Oakland Families United Against Antisemitism, Peninsula Jewish & Allies Chapter.

The virtual Summit provided an important platform for Jewish students, parents, and educators to share their firsthand experiences of antisemitism in California’s public schools directly with bipartisan members of the California Legislature and the Newsom Administration. Attendees included California State Senators Henry Stern, Scott Wiener, Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Assemblymember Marc Berman, and Commissioner Brian Levin, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to the newly established Commission on the State of Hate.

“The testimony I heard confirms why we need statewide reform around how hate is being documented and addressed in K-12. Too many teachers, parents and students facing what appears to be a deeper, systemic problem, are being avoided by their schools as liabilities, and that has to change,” said Senator Stern. “We have to confront the gaps in our civil rights laws and teacher training resources so that we avoid further atomizing and othering the next generation.”

The Summit featured powerful testimonies from participants, highlighting the urgent need for mandatory antisemitism education, robust reporting mechanisms, clear protocols for responding to incidents, and the inclusion of Jewish history in school curricula.

Dr. Diana Blum, a concerned parent, expressed her apprehensions about the ethnic studies curriculum in California schools, stating, “While I wholeheartedly believe in the value and original intent of ethnic studies to celebrate the rich, multicultural tapestry of our state and nation, I am deeply troubled by the current framing and implementation of the curriculum. The oppressor-oppressed lens fails to address the complexities of our diverse experiences and dismisses the genuine concerns of the Jewish community. It is imperative that we ensure an educational environment that is inclusive and respectful of all backgrounds, without perpetuating harmful stereotypes or biases.”

The student testimonies paint an alarming picture of the experiences Jewish children face in public schools.

They shared personal stories of being subjected to antisemitic slurs, physical assaults, and a pervasive sense of fear and isolation. The testimonies highlighted a lack of adequate response from school administrations, with students at all grade levels feeling unsafe and unsupported.

The students called for concrete actions, including the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, improved education on Jewish history and antisemitism, and stronger measures to address and prevent antisemitic incidents in schools. Their powerful voices underscored the urgent need for systemic changes to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all students.

The Summit aimed to shed light on the rising incidents of violence and hate targeting the Jewish community and to advocate for effective policy changes to ensure a safe and inclusive educational environment for all.

“To the legislators: We want to make sure that when you talk about civil rights, you don’t exclude us. We’ve been there. We’ve been here in this country. We’ve been the victims. We’ve been the survivors. We’ve been the contributors. We want to make sure that there’s real action in Sacramento.” added Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “What just happened in Berkeley is unacceptable, where an Israeli speaker could not speak because of the violence. We need to be protected in our schools from bullying, intimidation, and from the spreading of blood libels, the big lies about the Jewish people and about Israel. So, legislators, it’s a collective responsibility: students, parents, and our elected officials. We look forward to working with you for a safer and better future in the great state of California.”​

The event also underscored the importance of promoting a school culture that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, with a focus on five key policy priorities to address and combat antisemitism effectively.

Dillon Hosier, CEO of ICAN, emphasized the importance of the Summit, stating, “This event marks a significant step in our ongoing efforts to combat the surge of antisemitism in our schools. By giving a voice to those directly affected to speak to those who can make change, we hope to drive meaningful action and foster a culture of mutual understanding and respect.”

ICAN and its partners are committed to continuing this vital conversation and working with policymakers, educators, and communities to create a safer future for Jewish students in California.

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