April 26, 2024

By Solly Kane, President & CEO

If you are anything like me, you spent the beginning of this week trying to focus on Passover and continually getting pulled away by the deeply troubling news of expanding protests and “encampments” on college campuses. It feels like, once again, antisemitism is at a new level, one which we have not seen in decades. (That’s a sentence that I feel like I have written so many times in recent months, and yet, the severity continues to rise.)

These protests on campuses are dangerous and threatening to Jewish students. When protesters use language calling for October 7 to happen a thousand times over or for the destruction of Israel, it isn’t a question of free speech but rather a question of morally reprehensible language that condones, or even encourages, violence against Jews.

In case you missed it, I had an op-ed in the Seattle Times earlier this week about the responsibility of parents and schools in the face of rising antisemitism. An excerpt from that article follows and you can read the whole piece here:

Antisemitism is at a 45-year high, and a report released last week by the Anti-Defamation League indicated a nearly 200% increase in antisemitic incidents year-over-year in Washington. And, according to the ADL report, in K-12 communities, there was a 422% increase in antisemitic incidents as a result of the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

The data — and the experience of many Jewish young people in America right now — is frightening, and parents cannot shoulder this burden alone. School leadership should own their responsibility to ensure school communities remain safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all students and faculty, including Jewish and Israeli students.

School administrators and educators, from K-12 to college campuses, must take steps to address and prevent antisemitism in their institutions. These steps can and should include: Creating a culture in which students and faculty feel safe reporting when they feel threatened or unsafe due to anti-Jewish harm. Ensuring there is a functioning system in place to receive complaints and that these issues don’t fall through the cracks because they may not fit neatly into a single category of hate — whether racial, ethnic or religious. Evaluating harassment, intimidation and bullying policies and student codes of conduct to ensure these policies are robust and employed to the fullest extent when incidents occur. This includes thoroughly investigating reports of antisemitism, holding perpetrators accountable, and providing support for victims to ensure that anti-Jewish attitudes and ideas do not cross the line into physical violence.

And lastly, school administrators must step out of a reactive mode and begin taking proactive steps to create safer school communities. The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council has been working in partnership with other local Jewish organizations, proactively supporting administrators, faculty, and staff in both public and independent schools across the region — with everything from teacher training and anti-bullying programs to education about what antisemitism looks like today. Schools must avail themselves of resources and support.

This week, the Jewish community marks Passover, a holiday with a strong tradition of asking questions as a way to involve children. I hope all parents and educators will take this opportunity to ask questions about antisemitism and the experience of Jews today, and take the time to listen and learn from the answers to thoughtfully guide our children. By sending a clear message that antisemitism will not be tolerated, parents and schools can help create a united front against hate and bigotry and ensure all feel safe and welcome.

Our Federation continues to stand up against the plague of antisemitism infecting our country. We will continue to speak out, and to call on leaders — whether elected officials, education leaders, or business leaders — to call out hate and antisemitism whenever it occurs. It’s too critical of a moment to do anything else.

Shabbat shalom and moadim l’simcha,