MCPS is Not Doing Enough to Combat Antisemitism

MCPS is not doing enough to combat antisemitism. Recently in Montgomery County, schools are observing a rise in antisemitic vandalism and hateful messaging. 

Within the past two months, officials from at least five schools have reported finding swastikas on desks, including at Thomas S. Wootton High School and Tilden Middle School (where in April 2022, swastikas and KKK symbols were found on desks), along with Magruder High School and Silver Creek Middle School. 

Additionally, Walt Whitman High School was defaced with antisemitic graffiti on Dec. 17, the eve of Hanukkah. Even further, two students from the Whitman Debate Team allegedly joked about using challah to lure Jewish people to the Andaman Islands in India and burn them at the stake, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post. 

These actions are unacceptable, and MCPS should be doing everything in its power to prevent further activity.

These recent antisemitic incidents reflect an alarming rise in hatred within the county that MCPS is unprepared to counteract. The actions taken by MCPS following these events reflect this sentiment. 

In a statement released on Jan. 21, MCPS, the school superintendent Monifa Mcknight, and the Board of Education said, “we must embrace the work necessary to ensure our scholars are in safe and welcoming school environments.” The statement also included that MCPS “condemns antisemitism, hate, and racism always.” 

Fortunately, issues like racism and other forms of hatred are taken very seriously in Montgomery County. However, this has potentially negative repercussions when dealing with antisemitism.

By definition, “racial antisemitism” is prejudice against Jews based on a belief that Jews constitute a distinct race that is inherently inferior, according to Jewish Encyclopedia. The idea that antisemitism is racism reflects the idea that Jews are a separate race, which is, ironically, racist in itself.

By constantly lumping antisemitism in with racism and other forms of hate crimes, MCPS unintentionally takes the focus off of this specific issue, where people don’t see it as a big problem. Because other issues are seen as more severe and important, MCPS puts antisemitism on the back burner where hatred can fester and manifest, like in the recent incidents that have occurred. 

MCPS’s efforts to combat this hatred have been admirable, but evidently, ineffective. In the Jan. 21 statement, MCPS said it has been working with advocates like the Jewish Community Relations Council to better inform students about antisemitism. Silver Creek administrators also stated that they plan to schedule student town hall meetings to readdress their core values and discuss the importance of being a ‘No Place for Hate’ school.

However, these efforts are not enough. Town hall meetings at one school are a great start, but these efforts are only effective if they reach all students. Additionally, better publicity of future actions would increase public awareness of the issue. The only current news about antisemitism in MCPS is negative, as opposed to positive efforts. 

One positive effort was on Dec. 22, at Walt Whitman High School, students staged a walkout in protest of antisemitic graffiti. The school’s student group Jews4Change facilitated the event, hoping to bring attention to the issue and increase Holocaust awareness in Montgomery County.

Understandably for MCPS, it is difficult to completely eradicate antisemitic mentality in just a few months. However, by taking more forceful and noticeable actions in the future, hopefully, MCPS can diminish antisemitic behavior.