Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified School Board president, speaks to the media on the first day of school. Photo by Chris Stone
Richard Barrera, San Diego Unified school board president, speaks to media on the first day of school. Photo by Chris Stone

On Oct. 26, the San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution condemning antisemitism and affirming the value of Jewish students, staff, and families. We thank the trustees for sending an important message to the community. 

Last week marked the third anniversary of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting, the largest mass murder of Jews in the history of the United States. Unfortunately, our own San Diego community is not immune to antisemitic violence and hatred, as evident by the Chabad of Poway shooting in which a rabid antisemite took the life of a graduate of San Diego schools, Lori Kaye.

We are deeply appreciative of San Diego Unified’s recognition of the reality that faces the Jewish community across the country.

In fact, according to the most recent hate crimes report released by the FBI, 57% of the total number of reported religion-based crimes were directed against Jews and Jewish institutions –- even though Jews make up only 2% of the country’s population. Additionally, recent studies show that a majority of young Americans lack knowledge of even the most basic facts about the Holocaust.

In our politically divided United States where antisemitism, hatred and bigotry are on the rise, balanced and objective curriculum regarding the history of the community is critical to ensuring that students are supported in safe and welcoming spaces. 

Despite the ultimately unanimous vote, the road to getting there was contentious. Although the purpose of this resolution is to demonstrate that San Diego Unified is committed to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate, there was a concerted effort to use the resolution as a political tool for advancing the anti-Israel agenda of fringe activists who sought to derail the true intent. This will not be the last time this is the case. 

Time and again, the Jewish community has to justify our history of oppression. ADL San Diego has a long history of supporting local social justice movements, including supporting the establishment of the San Diego County Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, rallying the Jewish community against the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, and working with the Anti-Hate Crimes Coalition for over 30 years.

Equally as important as supporting our fellow San Diegans, the Jewish community also needs allies in our own fight against antisemitism and hate.

ADL is proud of our longstanding partnership with the San Diego Unified to advance a more equitable and inclusive learning environment for all students. Whether it be through creating and maintaining more positive school climates, providing anti-bias and allyship workshops for students, or training educators to address bias in their classrooms — our track record working with the district speaks for itself. 

Last week we heard directly from the students who are most impacted by the antisemitism they face every day when they go to school. Their powerful words should remind us that every school in San Diego should be a welcoming and safe space for all students. Their voices remind us that it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that San Diego schools are No Place for Hate.

ADL stands ready to further support the San Diego community with resources and continued opportunities for education — which is the best antidote to hate.

Tammy Gillies is director of the ADL’s San Diego Region, which serves San Diego and Imperial Counties.

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