(KRON) — Antisemitism is on the rise and creating unsafe conditions in and around classrooms, that’s what more than 1,200 parents of Jewish students said in a letter to the Berkeley Unified School District Wednesday. The letter is demanding that the district do more to for “students’ physical and psychological safety in school.”
The letter, which was attached to a petition with over 1,200 signatures, stated that since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Jewish students had been subject to increased antisemitic comments from other students.
“We are dismayed, disappointed and frightened by the district’s lack of care for our students’ physical and psychological safety in school since the October 7 terrorist attacks, which killed more Jews than in any moment in our history since the Holocaust,” the letter read.
“It’s time for the district to recognize that we are terrified,” said parent Stacey Zolt Hara.
Since the Hamas attack, Jewish students in Berkeley schools have been subject to calls to “kill the Jews” or “eliminate Israel,” the letter said. Non-Jewish students have also reportedly asked Jewish students what “their number is,” in an apparent reference to the numbers tattooed on Jewish concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust.
Jewish students have even “endured antisemitic statements from teachers,” and “witnessed art and propaganda hung in their classroom with echoes to Nazi Germany,” according to the letter.
Many Jewish kids are now moderating what they wear to school, the letter goes on to say, avoiding anything that might hint at their Jewish identity.
“They are keeping their heads down, hiding who they are, and moving through their school days in fear,” the letter states.
Parents say that those who have reported these incidents have not had their calls or emails returned. Those that did, say they were met with “antagonism, disbelief and an utter lack of professionalism.”
In the letter, parents say they are not asking BUSD to take a position on the ongoing conflict, but rather to “live up to its mission to ensure all students feel safe at school.”
“BUSD needs to communicate to Jewish students that, just as the district does not tolerate hate speech against those of other faiths and backgrounds, antisemitism will not be tolerated,” the letter states.
Zolt Hara says her kids do not feel safe.
“I’ve heard of students asking other students what their number is, referring to the numbers that were often tattooed on the bodies of Jewish people in concentration camps,” said Zolt Hara, who helped write the letter.
The letter also asks that BUSD actively condemn racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiment, in addition to antisemitism.
“The communities that we’ve shown up for, genuinely and authentically as allies, are silent. Silent,” said father Aaron Katler, who also helped write the letter. “And it doesn’t diminish my commitment to being an ally to other communities at all — it strengthens it. But it’s painful.”
While the letter cites an increase in antisemitic sentiment since the Hamas attack, it also accuses the district of having “a history of not recognizing Jewish students as part of its equity and inclusion practices.”
The letter from parents in Berkeley follows a controversial post last week from the Oakland teachers’ union expressing “unequivocal support” for Palestine. That post, which failed to mention the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, has since been deleted.
KRON4 has reached out to Berkeley Unified School District for comment. We have not yet heard back.
During a board meeting Wednesday, BUSD Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel said:
“We know that BUSD community members continue to be concerned about the conflict in the Middle East and how this conflict is being experienced here in Berkeley among our students and school community, and that there has been feedback about students not feeling safe in our school. I say again and unequivocally, that BUSD stands up, together, against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.