August 23, 2023
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Hosts Conversation with Elected Officials and Faith Leaders on Ways to Counter Rising Antisemitism
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted an important virtual roundtable discussion, Education to End Hate: Countering Antisemitism, to discuss the role of education in addressing antisemitism. The webinar brought together approximately 350 attendees, including state elected officials and faith leaders, who are working to counter the recent rise in antisemitism.
Hate crimes in California have increased by over 20 percent during the past year with incidents against Black Californians, the LGBTQ+ community, and the Jewish community leading that rise, according to a report released earlier this summer by Attorney General Rob Bonta. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report in May on the rise of antisemitism in California , capturing the disturbing truth that hate crimes against the Jewish community rose by over 40 percent between 2021 and 2022. Included in those numbers are the largest number of incidents ever recorded in Los Angeles and three times the number of incidents in San Bernardino and Kern counties.
“Every time there is an act of hate, every time there is an incident, every time there is a threat, a child is affected, a family is impacted, a community is destabilized,” said Thurmond. “The hurt is real, and pain is palpable and this rise in hate affects us all. I want you to know that it is very intentional that we begin this series discussing ways we can address the rise in antisemitism across California and our nation. History teaches us that when antisemitism rises, acts of hatred against other communities follow closely behind.”
Panelists discussed the rich history and multifaceted elements of Jewish identity, the rise in antisemitism, and specific ways that education can play a role in countering antisemitism throughout the state. They identified important resources that teachers can use to address antisemitism and all forms of hate.
Thurmond was joined by a panel of community leaders to frame the issue, including Rabbi Meyer May, Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance; Dr. Anita Friedman, Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, and Marin and Sonoma Counties; and Sarah Levin, Executive Director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).
Members of the Jewish Legislative Caucus offered opening remarks at the beginning of the event including Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Senator Scott Wiener, Senator Josh Becker, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and Senator Henry Stern.
Dr. Anita Friedman shared her own personal story of facing the horrors of antisemitism as she herself fought persecution as a child during the Holocaust. “[That experience] taught me the importance of building up a society that values all its members and protects and takes care of its members,” Friedman said. “When we see the kind of antisemitism that we’re seeing right now, we know it’s a sign of a deterioration of our society and that affects all of us.”
Rabbi May discussed the importance of Jewish identity that includes caring for the community: “Judaism for me is an all-encompassing experience. … I have an equal responsibility every day to treat my fellow persons with human dignity. That should be the core value for every human being: that we treat others with human dignity and understand that everyone has the same basic needs, that they want to support their families, have joy, and pride in their families and perpetuate their culture.”
In October 2021, Thurmond joined the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education as Co-Chair to help identify instructional resources to teach students across California about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. He has also partnered with the National Equity Project to help implement the $20 million Antibias Education Grant Program provided through allocations in the 2021 and 2022 California state budgets. The last round of application for the grants closed last month and you can read more about the program on the California Department of Education (CDE) Antibias Education Grant web page. To learn more about the Education to End Hate Initiative, please see this CDE news release.
As evidenced by the work of the Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, the Education to End Hate Initiative, and the Antibias Education Grant Program, Thurmond hopes that we can work in solidarity through education toward a better future for California students to help show how schools can play a role in reducing acts of hate.
“I have pledged that the CDE will intervene whenever we learn about an antisemitic act or other forms of hate at a California public school. We will work side-by-side with school and district leaders to ensure that teachers have the resources and partnerships needed to address both the immediate crisis and the long-term educational implications. My priority is to empower educators and students to confront the hate, bigotry, and racism rising against several communities in the state and nation,” said Thurmond.
The next event in Thurmond’s Education to End Hate series is scheduled to take place on September 12, 2023, with more details forthcoming.
A full recording of the webinar can be viewed on the CDE Facebook page . Schools and districts are encouraged to consider livestreaming the event at their individual sites or to play the recording for their respective middle and high school students.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100