A disturbing story in today’s New York Times tells of widespread, nearly institutionalized anti-Semitism at a New York public school. Three Jewish families are suing the Pine Bush Central School District, located north of New York City and serving Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties, for what they allege is rampant anti-Semitic behavior and a culture of indifference on the part of school officials.
For some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a nightmare. They tell of hearing anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, and horrific jokes about the Holocaust.
They have reported being pelted with coins, told to retrieve money thrown into garbage receptacles, shoved and even beaten. They say that on school buses in this rural part of the state, located about 90 minutes north of New York City and once home to a local Ku Klux Klan chapter president, students have chanted “white power” and made Nazi salutes with their arms.
It seems such behavior is not only commonplace, but also hardly a new development. A former student, now 18 and in college, testified that he reported a one-foot swastika in a bathroom when he was in eighth grade, but ultimately stopped reporting them since, as he told the Times, “nobody was doing anything about them.” Further, the school’s superintendent, himself Jewish, appears to have accepted the futility of trying to institute change in the district, saying as much to concerned parents before retiring this summer.
You can read the full article here, which, in the midst of troubling reports earlier today of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, makes you realize we’re not immune to such stories on our own turf, and in our own public schools.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.