The NYCPS Alliance held a press conference on the steps of Chancellor Banks’s office in Manhattan. Employees and parents of the New York City Public Schools are breaking the silence about the systemic bias and Jewish hate that is present across the New York City Public School system. Chancellor Banks’ management team has failed New York City’s students, families, educators, and residents. He has failed at building safe and inclusive classrooms and schools for Jewish students, families and employees. Yesterday at his press conference at Hillcrest High School, the Chancellor created space and room for discrimination and violence without consequences. Our schools have become spaces for indoctrination of ideologies which run counter to the democratic philosophies of tolerance and inclusivity, not to mention the Chancellor’s regulations themselves.
Chancellor Banks’s weak response to the antisemitic riot at Hillcrest High School failed to condemn the behavior of 400+ students that threatened the life of a teacher, solely because she is Jewish. “He failed to recognize the deep seated Jewish hate present in our schools and then doubled down on this failure by minimizing and erasing the legitimate concerns of our community. Chancellor, this is your teachable moment” said Tova Plaut, one of the founders of the NYCPS Alliance and educator.
We have heard from employees and parents who have shared experiences and evidence of Jewish hate across the school system. “A few days before the riot at Hillcrest, a mother of a high school student in Brooklyn, reached out to me with grave concern and fear for her daughter’s safety. Her daughter, a senior in HS, was receiving vile threatening Instagram posts along with being bullied and harassed in school” said Karen Feldman, a NYCPS teacher. “I can’t imagine how she must feel in NYC 2023, knowing that so many people in class are wishing her harm solely because she is Jewish. Is this the type of learning environment that we want to send our kids to? Is this the inclusive environment that represents the diverse and beautiful tapestry of NYC?”.
The riot at Hillcrest did not occur in a vacuum. Through the experiences that have been shared with us it has become clear that anti-Jewish incidents have been happening across all boroughs in this school system. We can no longer remain silent. We feel compelled to speak up for those who are too fearful to do so. We feel obligated to speak up for the educator, student and parent who are afraid to enter school because of their Jewish identity. We feel obligated to speak up for every student who is being harassed and bullied just because of their Jewish identity. What event will be dangerous, harmful, hurtful enough to demonstrate a strong commitment to change the anti-Jewish climate? Was Hillcrest not enough?
NYCPS parent Victoria Averbukh Kulikov shared, “Chancellor Banks, it is time to build consensus that involves teachers and students, not alienates them. It is time to build consensus that categorically disallows anti-Jewish bias within our schools. It is time to stop using TikTok as an excuse and fill the educational void with capable, informed, and historically accurate resources.”
We too have had our own experiences of being targeted based on our Jewish identity from hostile work environments to physical intimidation by students. “Last month at a panel on countering antisemitism in K-12 schools, I heard the Chancellor make a strong commitment to protect Jewish employees and students. I need him to show that commitment now, especially after his press conference at Hillcrest HS. And it’s not just me, the parent I spoke to with high school students at three different public schools who in the past few weeks, have all been targeted by their peers for being Jewish, deserves to believe that he is committed to their safety” said Shana Dworken, a NYCPS teacher.
Now we know that a Jewish teacher in Queens had to hide from a pre-planned riot because of her Jewish identity and beliefs. We know that Jewish students around New York City have been targeted and singled out by peers since Oct 7th, simply for being Jewish or supporting Israel. We have collected not just anecdotes, but evidence of more than a dozen incidents, some that have unfolded since the October 7th attack by Hamas, but many document years of anti-Jewish sentiment within our schools as antisemitism has risen across New York City and the country. We are committed to creating change and allowing our school system to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone; including Jews.
We demand a meeting with Chancellor Banks following commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion within the NYCPS
1. For many Jewish individuals, Zionism is a core aspect of their Jewish cultural, ethnic, and religious identity. WE DEMAND an acknowledgment of the extent of anti-Zionist ideology and the adoption of the IHRA definition ofantisemitism, including all of its examples, in NYCPS schools.
2. WE DEMAND zero tolerance for anti-Jewish bias or conduct and universal adherence to NYCPS anti-discrimination policies.
3. 18% of New York City residents are Jewish. WE DEMAND curricula and training programs that educate students and teachers on the diverse Jewish identities and experiences such as the Spanish and Portuguese. Inquisitions, Zionism, the Holocaust, expulsions of Jews from Arab lands, the African-American and Jewish-American alliance during the American civil rights movement, and American Jewish heritage and identity and accomplishments.
4. WE DEMAND that the NYCPS must restructure how it addresses diversity and inclusion to include all marginalized
groups including Jewish voices, identity, and antisemitism.
Tova Plaut also appeared on Zev Brenner’s ‘Talkline’ to discuss hate on Hillcrest HS: