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Anti-Semitism Rising in Upstate NY; No Improvement After Legal Settlement

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New public information about surveys that Pine Bush Central School District near Newburgh, N.Y., show that anti-Semitism remained a problem despite the school system saying it would do something. (Photo Credit: Jewish Business News)

Jewish hotbeds in the city of New York have seen a noticeable increase in attacks on Orthodox Jews, and these attacks come as the same time that anti-Semitism and authoritarian movements are on the rise worldwide. The hatred isn’t reserved just for the city though because white supremacist groups have some territories staked out in upstate New York too.

By: Marge Tanji

New public information about surveys that Pine Bush Central School District near Newburgh, N.Y., show that anti-Semitism remained a problem despite the school system saying it would do something. Allegations of “white power” chants and other unwelcoming symbols of white supremacy were the norm and became enough of an issue where five students of Jewish faith sued the school district on grounds of discrimination, according to the New York Times.

There were allegations of intimidation through means like painting hate symbols like swastikas on lockers and even physical violence against Jewish students. Some students were said to have done Nazi sieg heils. The New York Times reports that a former Ku Klux Klan chapter president lived in Pine Bush in the 1970s.

In a settlement from about four years ago, the district paid out almost $5 million in order to make the lawsuit go away. It also had to promise that the curriculum would change in a way that would help educate people against anti-Semitism in order to try preventing its spread. One of the other stipulations was that there were to be student surveys done to show progress, and this is where the now publicly available documents serve as data points that show little to no progress made since the settlement.

The complaints keep coming, even though the district was supposed to take action to address this serious issue of discrimination and hatred being perpetrated on Jewish pupils. The New York Times reports that 766 students in middle school and high school in that district disclosed hearing or seeing anti-Semitic occurences within the past school year. These findings mean that about one third of the students witnessed anti-Semitism in just that short span of time.

Ilann M. Maazel represented the Jewish students in the lawsuit and believes that one third of students reporting anti-Semitism is “shockingly high.”

“Both sides agree that results matter and they’re not even close to being there yet,” Maazel said.

Instead of taking responsibility for its slowness in rolling out an effective program, the school district feels that when compared to the rest of the country, the district is actually making “great strides in improving the attitudes of its students and school community.”

“At a time when reports of anti-Semitic behavior have dramatically increased throughout the United States, including on K-12 school campuses,” according to the school district. Despite the surveys showing a mostly flat line of progress, the district added that “the Pine Bush survey results, by contrast, show some positive trends.”

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