The resolution, which also calls on the district to update its curriculum and instructional materials related to Jewish history or culture and to provide more training to staff to respond to antisemitic speech and incidents, follows 11 days of deadly fighting in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, in May.
At the time, the longstanding conflict spilled over onto Los Angeles streets, as both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian advocates held demonstrations. There were also at least two highly reported cases of Jewish men being harassed or attacked in L.A. during that period — incidents which many Jews believe constituted hate crimes.
L.A. has one of the largest Jewish populations in the world — behind only Israel and New York — and about 15% of the K-12 student population within the LAUSD boundary are Jewish or have Jewish family members, according to the resolution.
“The Board of Education denounces the rise in anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israeli rhetoric and hate-motivated crimes and incidents that denigrate Jewish students and staff in the communities served by LAUSD in order for every LAUSD campus and office to be a safe and welcoming environment for all students, staff, and families,” the resolution states.
School board member Scott Schmerelson, who introduced the resolution, told fellow board members the motion would allow the district to affirm its commitment to ending discrimination and racial injustice.
“Let’s let everyone know that LAUSD stands against Jewish hate and violence and that we denounce the attacks to Jewish people in the nation,” he said.
Schmerelson, who is Jewish, did not respond to a message asking if his decision to introduce the resolution was in reaction to another resolution that leaders of the local teachers union will be voting on in September that expresses support for Palestinians and endorses the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
The proposed UTLA resolution has divided the LAUSD community, with some who accuse the Israeli government of committing apartheid against Palestinians in Gaza saying it’s critical to speak out against war crimes while critics — which include some UTLA members — saying a pro-Palestinian stance would leave Jewish students, their families and districts employees targets for harassment.
With regards to Tuesday’s school board resolution, a few parents who called into the board meeting urged elected officials to include language denouncing anti-Zionism, a movement which opposes Israel as a Jewish state. The board ultimately adopted the resolution without the added language.
“Anti-Zionism is the same thing as antisemitism. Anyone who sees it differently truly doesn’t understand the fight that is in front of all of us Jews,” said parent Michelle Souferian.School board member Jackie Goldberg, calling herself a proud Jew, objected to the idea that anyone who criticizes the Israeli government or who supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is antisemitic.
“Israel has a right to exist, but those of us who want it to exist have a right to be critical of some of its policies. And that is not antisemitism,” she said.
The board resolution also directs the superintendent to invite groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Center and J Street — Jewish advocacy organizations with different viewpoints — to help update and revise district curriculum, recommended reading lists or instructional resources.