TanenbaumCHAT, Toronto’s largest Jewish high school, received an email last night, Dec. 7, that bombs were placed in the school, the second such threat against the school in less than a month. The emails were received by senior administrators in the evening after school was closed, Jonathan Levy, head of school, told The CJN. The […]
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University of California Santa Barbara Says Campus is ‘Distressed’ By Antisemitic Harassment
University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) has issued a statement condemning the antisemitic harassment of its Jewish student body president, Tessa Veksler, while reports emerged on social media that a school official who engaged in antisemitic conduct in the building where Veksler was harassed has been terminated.
“The campus was distressed to learn of incidents over the weekend that included offensive social media message and signage on one of our buildings,” a university spokesperson told The Algemeiner in a statement. “The signage has been removed and campus is conducting a bias incident review based on potential discrimination related to protected categories that include religion, citizenship, and or ethnic origin.”
The spokesperson added, “The posting of such messages is a violation of our principles of community and inclusion.”
As The Algemeiner previously reported, UCSB Student Association president Tessa Veksler discovered in the school’s multicultural center over a dozen messages, written on placards, which said, “resistance is justified,” “you can run but you can’t hide Tessa Veksler,” and “get these Zionists out of office.” In marker, someone else graffitied “Zionist not allowed” on the door, just inches away from a mezuzah.
Tessa Veksler is a fourth year political science major who was elected in April 2023 as president of UCSB Associated Students (AS), making history by becoming the school’s first ever Shabbat observant student body president. At the time, she told The Algemeiner that becoming president was always a “far-distant” goal of hers.
On Wednesday, StopAntisemitism, an antisemitism watchdog, reported that Micky Brown, a multicultural center employee who once used the center’s social media account to say that Jews should “go back to Poland,” is no longer employed by the university. Additionally, “all near feature events” the multicultural center planned to hold this semester are canceled, StopAntisemitism added.
The harassment to which Tessa Veksler was subjected prompted reactions across social media. Jewish community leaders, as well as her friends, denounced the conduct and noted that it is representative of the experiences of Jewish college students throughout the country.
“No one deserves this kind of harassment and hate. When will California leaders address the antisemitic rot sweeping their public universities?” Jacob Baime, executive director of Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) told The Algemeiner in a statement.
US colleges and universities have experienced an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents — including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students — since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Between Oct. 7 and Dec. 18, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded 470 antisemitic incidents on college campuses alone.
In its statement, University of California-Santa Barbara said it is “committed to thoroughly reviewing and addressing all reported bias incidents.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Hostage Families Begin March Towards Jerusalem
Family members of those still held captive in Gaza began a four-day march on Wednesday to Jerusalem, with the goal of building pressure for a deal to secure their release.
“Join us! I’m marching for my husband and for all the abductees,” chanted Sharon Aloni Konio, a former hostage herself who joined the march that begins at Kibbutz Re’im, one of the many Israeli towns attacked by Hamas on October 7. During that fateful day, Sharon, her husband, and more than 240 others were kidnapped from their homes, a music festival, or military bases and taken captive in the Gaza Strip. An additional more than 1,200 were killed.
The march leaves from the Gaza border town and is led by roughly 70 families of those being held, alongside supporters of the cause. Their goal is to arrive in Jerusalem, where they will petition the government to pursue another deal to bring about their release.
Sharon was one of the more than 100 hostages released in November during a deal brokered between Israel, Hamas, the US, and Qatar. She told the group, “There are no words to express our gratitude. I also want to join in and say that my heart goes out to the bereaved families. They are truly heroes. Everyone who fought there is an indescribable hero. I ask everyone who can: Join us and show us your support in our important struggle.”
Another member of the march, the grandson of one of the elderly hostages being held, Oded Lifshitz, told the supporters: “145 days of hope that has not yet been realized and still has not faded. The gift and its resurrection. We are still waiting to see 134 people from our family, who will return to hug their children, return to their border or be able to reach their eternal rest. We are marching for Israel’s revival. We need to bring them all back.”
It is estimated that 134 hostages remain in captivity, including seven women, 15 men over the age of 50, and 13 hostages who are sick or injured, among a number of soldiers. The IDF estimates that around 50 of the 134 hostages have been killed in captivity or were taken by Hamas dead from Israel.
The parents of a soldier who joined the IDF from the US, Omar Neutra, said, “The support is broad and inclusive and comes from all shades of the people of Israel, each in their own way, because that’s how we are the most beautiful. I say thank you for all this beauty, all the light and the mobilization for us, the families of the abductees. Their return is a top value for all of us. Our strength is in our unity. Out of this unity we embark on a journey from the place where the terrible disaster began to Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
Efforts to score a deal have been ongoing since the last deal in November. Israeli representatives met with American, Qatari, and Egyptian representatives in Paris last week, where an outline for a new deal was agreed upon. US President Joe Biden expressed optimism for its conclusion, though Israeli officials quickly pushed back, saying a deal was not imminent.
Hamas has stood firm in its demands that the IDF retreat completely from the Gaza Strip, as well as pushing for the release of thousands of terrorists held in Israeli prisons.
It is yet to be seen if a breakthrough will occur in the interim. According to reports from Israeli outlets, mediators are trying to secure a deal prior to the beginning of Ramadan on March 10, which marks month-long daily fasts by Muslims around the world, and has historically been a time of increased tension in Israel.
California School District Accused of Ignoring ‘Pervasive’ Antisemitism
Antisemitism in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in California has caused severe psychological trauma to Jewish students as young as eight years old and fostered a hostile learning environment, a new civil rights complaint filed on Wednesday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges.
The problem exploded after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, the suit says. Since then, BUSD teachers have allegedly used their classrooms to promote antisemitic tropes about Israel, weaponizing disciplines such as art and history to convince unsuspecting minors that Israel is a “settler-colonial” apartheid state committing a genocide of Palestinians. While this took place, high level BUSD officials allegedly ignored complaints about discrimination and tacitly approved hateful conduct even as it spread throughout the student body.
At Berkeley High School, for example, a history teacher forced students to explain why Israel is an apartheid state and screened an anti-Zionist documentary. The teacher sharply squelched dissent, telling a Jewish student who raised concerns about the content of her lessons that only anti-Zionist narratives matter in her classroom and that any other which argues that Israel isn’t an apartheid state is “laughable.” Elsewhere in the school, an art teacher, whose name is redacted from the complaint for matters of privacy, displayed anti-Israel artworks in his classroom, one of which showed a fist punching through a Star of David.
Teachers even attempted to intimidate Jewish parents who complained, the complaint continues. Just days after Oct. 7, a second-grade teacher, who hung a Palestinian flag in the window of her classroom after Oct. 7, threatened the family of a concerned father after learning he had formally complained about her conduct. “I know who you are, I know who you f— wife is, and I know where you live,” the teacher said to him at a school event. Later, in a Facebook post, the teacher defended her politicization of the classroom, proclaiming, “I’ve been a non-neutral educator for all 20 years I’ve been a teacher.”
“The eruption of of antisemitism in Berkeley’s elementary and high schools is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Brandeis Center chairman and former Assistant Secretary of Education Kenneth Marcus said in a press release. “It is dangerous enough to see faculty fanning the flames of antisemitism on college campuses, but to see teachers inciting hate in the youngest grades while Berkeley administrators sit idly by as it continues to escalate by the day is reprehensible. Where is the accountability? Where are the people who are supposed to protect and educate students?”
At several schools throughout BUSD, students were recruited to assist anti-Zionists teachers in cheering Hamas’ atrocities as “liberation.” They were called called on to join “walk outs” and rewarded with excused absences in return for their participation, another violation of district policy forbidding excused absences for all but the most important reasons. These demonstrations became salvos of antisemitic rhetoric. During one organized at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, students shouted “KKK,” “Kill Israel,” “Kill the Jews,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” In another incident, the second-grade teacher who threatened a parent instructed her students to write “Stop bombing babies” on sticky notes.
The behavior of BUSD teachers and the benefits they offered in exchange for engaging in antisemitic behavior sent a strong signal to students that hating Jews is normal, socially acceptable behavior, the complaint explains. Acting on such approval, they proceeded to bully Jewish students with impunity. “You have a big nose because you are a stupid Jew,” a Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School student told their Jewish classmate. Another called a Jewish student a “midget Jew,” and throughout the district it became trend to ask Jewish students if they have a “number,” an allusion to tattoos given to Jewish concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust.
In almost every case investigations of teacher misconduct and bullying never led to disciplinary measures. School administrators removed Jewish students from the classrooms of demagogic instructors instead of enforcing policy which safeguards the classroom against politics and discrimination. Student perpetrators of antisemitism evaded punishment. The result was that parents were powerless to rectify the situation and Jewish students, left with no option but to register for new courses, fell behind in their lessons. Others, fearing that they would be “jumped” or subject to academic retaliation, became truant or transferred to new schools.
“It is beyond deplorable that in a moment of rising antisemitism both here in the US and abroad that teachers and administrators at BUSD are falling down in their obligation to protect our Jewish students,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “There is no more solemn or basic obligation than protecting our children from the moment when they walk into the doors of their schools, and to fail so monumentally that children feel forced to hide their Jewish identity for rear of reprisal is downright shocking. We must demand more from our educational leaders.”
In a statement sent to The Algemeiner on Wednesday, BUSD said it is aware that “some members of our community” have experienced “pain” because of the “ongoing crisis in Israel in Gaza.” Its statement made no mention of antisemitism.
“The district continuously encourages students and families to report any incidents of bullying or hate-motivated behavior and vigorously investigates each and every report,” the district added. “While we have not received official notification of the recent federal complaint, the district will work with the Office of Civil Rights in support of a thorough investigation. We remain committed to engaging with our community to ensure that BUSD is a district that lives up to its values of excellence, engagement, equity, and enrichment.”
After receiving an inquiry about the school’s policies on antisemitism, BUSD later sent The Algemeiner a second statement which said, “Berkeley Unified stands against all forms of hate, including hate motivated behavior and speech. We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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