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Anti-Semitic Incidents Escalate in New York City’s Elite Public High Schools

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Anti-Semitic Incidents Escalate in New York City’s Elite Public High Schools

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Antisemitic hate is festering in some of New York City’s most prestigious public high schools, creating an increasingly hostile environment for Jewish students, as was reported on Saturday by The New York Post.  At, Stuyvesant High School, and Bronx High School of Science, these institutions known for their academic rigor are now facing scrutiny over reports of antisemitic incidents among students and staff.

Jewish students at these specialized high schools have reported a disturbing rise in antisemitic behavior. Incidents include peers giving Nazi salutes and making accusations against Jewish students, alleging their involvement in the “genocide” of Palestinians, the report in The Post said. These actions are not only deeply offensive but also contribute to a climate of fear and alienation for Jewish students.

At Brooklyn Tech, the situation has been troubling for some time. One senior student recounted an incident from two years ago during her sophomore history class. While presenting on Israeli scholar Mordechai Kedar’s “Eight State Solution,” she was met with boos and had pennies thrown at her by classmates, according to the information in The Post report. This hostile reception highlights the pervasive nature of antisemitism within the school environment, extending beyond recent geopolitical events.

Stuyvesant High School, another esteemed institution, has also been embroiled in controversy. Last week, Dina Ingram, the school’s business manager, sent an email to the entire school community containing an anti-Israel protest guide. This guide, distributed “on behalf of Principal Seung Yu,” originated from a George Soros-funded nonprofit and promoted a May 31 walkout. The Post report said that the guide, titled “School’s Out for Palestine toolkit,” called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. support for what it termed the “genocide” of Palestinian people.

The guide also provided students with resources to “prepare for & respond to backlash” and emphasized that they did not need their school’s permission to participate in the walkout. The Post reported that the dissemination of material sparked outrage among Jewish families and students at Stuyvesant. One parent described the community as “disturbed,” highlighting the deep upset among many parents.

An hour after the initial email, Principal Yu sent a follow-up email apologizing for the “mistaken” inclusion of the protest guide. The Post report said that he claimed that the materials were erroneously included instead of a letter about the walkout itself. “We are deeply apologetic about this mistake,” Yu’s email read, emphasizing that the school did not endorse the walkouts and protests.

The New York City Department of Education backed this explanation, attributing the incident to a “clerical error.” However, this apology did little to assuage the concerns of Jewish families at Stuyvesant. The Post report noted that many parents remained upset, questioning how such a significant error could occur and expressing concerns over the potential impact on their children’s safety and well-being.

 

Compounding these issues are reports that some school administrators and teachers are expressing pro-Palestine sentiments, further alienating Jewish students. Students have alleged that the pro-Palestine propaganda being disseminated within their schools exacerbates the antisemitic environment, as was noted in The Post report. This creates a challenging atmosphere for Jewish students who already feel marginalized and targeted.

Shayna, a 17-year-old senior at Brooklyn Tech, recounted a harrowing incident where another student gave a Hitler salute during her speech. “I was kind of afraid to go to school after that, but more than fear, I feel disappointed that this is so normalized that there are no consequences,” Shayna told The Post. When she reported the behavior to school administrators, their response was dismissive, telling her, “It’s not that serious.” This lack of appropriate response has left Jewish students feeling unsupported and vulnerable.

The situation has worsened since the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel. According to Shayna and other Brooklyn Tech students, antisemitic behavior has become more prevalent. One freshman described an incident where a teacher told him to “Shut up, you Zionist” during a classroom discussion about the Israel-Hamas conflict, The Post report said. The teacher’s outburst followed the freshman’s attempt to refute a classmate’s claim that “Israel kills babies.” This incident was so distressing that the 15-year-old stopped wearing his Star of David necklace openly.

Efforts by Jewish students to address the antisemitism at Brooklyn Tech have been met with limited support from school administrators. When Shayna and other Jewish students approached Principal David Newman to discuss the rampant hate, he allowed them to share their experiences at a faculty-wide meeting. However, he imposed a restriction forbidding them from using the words “Israel” or “Zionism” during the meeting, fearing these terms might “trigger” certain teachers, as per the information provided in The Post report. This restriction has been criticized by students and educators alike as an impediment to addressing the core issues.

The pro-Palestine sentiment among some students and educators has further complicated the situation. The report in The Post said that a two-page letter by pro-Palestine students, posted on the walls of Bronx Science, pressured the school community to adopt anti-Israel rhetoric. The letter criticized the school for purportedly supporting Israel while ignoring what it described as a “genocide” in Palestine. This kind of rhetoric contributes to an environment where antisemitic views can thrive unchecked.

Daniel Brooks, the lead educator of Club Z’s New York chapter, emphasizes the critical role of education in combating antisemitism. “Ignorance about Jewish identity, Zionism, and Israel is no excuse for antisemitism directed at students and inaction among the adults in the room. The necessary response is increased education,” Brooks stated, according to The Post report. His comments call attention to the need for a deeper understanding of Jewish history and the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict among both students and faculty.

Adding to the tension, students circulated a flier calling for the headquarters of Taglit Birthright Israel on Third Avenue to be “shut down” during a June 15 rally. According to the information contained in The Post report, Birthright Israel, an organization that provides free trips to young people to foster Jewish connection and offer immersive experiences in Israel, was accused by these students of aiming “to deepen Israeli settler colonialism.” The spread of such inflammatory and misleading narratives contributes to a climate of hostility and misunderstanding.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) has acknowledged the severity of these incidents. A DOE spokesman described the events as “disturbing” and assured that they are being investigated. “Students and staff deserve to be safe and respected in their school and we encourage students, staff, and families to report incidents expeditiously so that they can be quickly investigated, and action taken,” he added, according to The Post report.

The incidents at Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Bronx Science serve as a stark reminder of the persistence of antisemitism and the critical need for ongoing efforts to combat it.

Addressing antisemitism is not only about responding to individual incidents but also about creating a foundation of knowledge and empathy that can prevent such behaviors from arising in the first place. Schools have a vital role to play in this effort, and it is imperative that they rise to the challenge to protect and support their students.

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