Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

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Jews Not Included

September 9, 2020
Posted by: JCRC Staff

With rising antisemitism in California and nationwide, JCRC has worked tirelessly to address serious problems with California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. Because Ethnic Studies will become a mandated course and this curriculum will be looked to by districts statewide, it has been of particular concern that the original draft released last year contained anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric.

We wholeheartedly support the adoption of an inclusive Ethnic Studies curriculum, which has been shown to lift up communities of color. Initially, we were satisfied that the issues with the first draft of the model curriculum had been appropriately addressed by the California Department of Education (CDE) in its recommended revisions, which were first released last month. The revisions, for example, added a reference to “antisemitism” as a form of hatred (absent in the original draft) and deleted the hateful and divisive content about Jews, Israel and Israelis. References to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement were also removed. However, the night before these revisions to the curriculum were set for public discussion, the CDE sent a highly unusual last-minute revision. Despite commitments that the model curriculum would be focused on the traditional four groups, this late-breaking change reversed course. Such a sudden shift, handled without transparency or accountability, undermined our trust in the CDE’s process and increased concern that the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel content may be reinjected into the curriculum and, as a result, into California’s public schools.

JCRC has launched a statewide grassroots advocacy effort – #JewsNotIncluded – to seek meaningful inclusion that shows the diversity of our community, including Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, and other Jews of color. We must also work to make sure that there isn’t any backpedaling on the promised removal of denigrating content. While the addition of the word antisemitism is important, we believe that, like other important terms in the draft, it should be defined.

Modern antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming Jews for COVID-19 and the migrant crisis lay bare the sad reality of a pernicious and persistent hatred that lingers around us, a stark reminder of the importance of ensuring accurate K-12 education about Jews, Judaism and Israel. We also have very serious national concerns, because California is again being used as a test case by Israel’s detractors. This scenario may well play out elsewhere as Ethnic Studies in K-12 continues to gain support across the country.

We will continue working with the CDE and other key stakeholders, and are confident we can achieve our goals while also improving the model curriculum for all Californians. To be sure, the CDE is in a difficult position, trying to thread the needle of many demands. That said, based on AB 2016 there is no reason to exclude any group from this important and soon-to-be mandatory K-12 curriculum.

Please join us in calling for:

  1. The inclusion of a meaningful definition of antisemitism.
  2. Keeping out all derogatory language about Jews, Israelis, and Israel, with guardrails in place to keep such language out of the classroom in the future.
  3. The addition of a sample lesson reflecting the diversity of Jewish Americans, with an emphasis on Jews of Color.

These changes are critically important for our state, and may even set a precedent for the rest of the country. ACT NOW > Click here to send your message to CDE and your state representatives.