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Jewish advocacy groups call for measures to combat antisemitism in San Diego schools

“I have received complaints of lesson plans or classroom activities that have folks thinking about the ways that Jews were somehow responsible for the Holocaust."

SAN DIEGO — Jewish advocacy groups are calling on the San Diego Unified School District to include antisemitism in its efforts to educate students about equity and inclusiveness. They presented a resolution at Tuesday night's board meeting asking the district to update its ethnic studies curriculum.

News 8's LaMonica Peters spoke with the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation about why they believe it’s necessary.

The groups say after a recent rise in antisemitism and multiple incidents on campuses across San Diego, now is the time to speak up and be proactive about antisemitism in local schools. 

The American Jewish Committee released a report this week highlighting that in the last year, 41% of Americans say they’ve witnessed an anti-Semitic incident and 24% of American Jews say they’ve been victims of antisemitism. 

“I have received complaints of lesson plans or classroom activities that have folks thinking about the ways that Jews were somehow responsible for the Holocaust," said Education Director Kelsey Greenberg Young with the Anti-Defamation League. "I have reports of students being shoved into lockers and being told to get in the gas chambers.”   

The Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federation, and the San Diego Rabbinical Assoc. partnered to present a Resolution to San Diego Unified’s Board, asking that antisemitism be included in all ethnic studies education. 

“Almost 60% of all hate crimes in the United States last year were committed against Jews. So, it is really an issue,” said Heidi Gantwerk, Jewish Federation of San Diego County Interim President & CEO.

During Tuesday’s Board meeting, public comments were allowed on the resolution. Some people supported the resolution while others opposed it. 

“Just this week I had to deal with and take down posters labeling Jews 'colonizers,' comparing the Israel-Palestine conflict to the genocide of Native Americans,” said Jake Zubkoff, who supported the resolution. 

Opposing the resolution, Jamal Kanj said, “Antisemitism is a serious matter and it must be confronted. SDUSD cannot however do that by working with proven Islamophobic organizations unless you plan to supplant antisemitism with Islamophobias and ignore the rights of your Muslim pupils.”

San Diego Unified’s Board voted to approve the resolution but with two items removed. Board President Richard Barrera asked for these two items to be amended in the resolution:

1) WHEREAS, SDUSD operates a robust ethnic studies program, seeking to recognize the incredible contributions of minority communities and to promote cultural inclusion; 

Barrera did not believe the resolution should be included in ethnic studies education. 

2) BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Education supports balanced and open classroom discussion, including the use of unbiased and politically neutral materials on issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as laid out in BP 6144 Controversial Issues, while condemning content that delegitimizes the right of any people, including Jews and Palestinians, to self-determination. 

Barrera did not believe the district had the capacity to properly train teachers how to discuss the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict for students in a classroom setting. 

WATCH RELATED: California to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement