Holocaust survivors call for legislators to oppose California ethnic studies bill

Holocaust survivors and descendants sign letter urging Jewish legislators in California not to back curriculum accused of anti-Jewish bias.

Dan Verbin ,

US school classroom
US school classroom

A group of hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their descendants are calling on the California Legislative Jewish Caucus to vote against a state bill that would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement for high school students, reported The Willits News.

In a Thursday letter, the signatories said: “We are Holocaust survivors and the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, who are deeply alarmed by AB 101, the ethnic studies graduation requirement bill, and the likelihood that it will lead to overtly anti-Semitic curricula making their way into every high school in the state and inciting hatred and hostility towards Jewish students and the Jewish community in California and well beyond.”

The letter stressed that AB 101 would let local school districts decide on their own ethnic studies curriculum, including use of the much maligned first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), which the ADL described as promoting “gratuitous and offensive anti-Semitic and anti-Israel biases.”

The first draft of the ESMC was rejected by not just Jewish community groups but also by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the California State Board of Education and the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

“Disturbingly, although you worked hard to ensure that the final State Board of Education-approved curriculum was free from anti-Semitic content, the rejected first draft – including its anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist lessons – was enthusiastically supported by the state’s two largest teachers unions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), as well as dozens of ethnic studies departments on California State University and University of California campuses,” stated the letter.

The signatories went on to say that they were alarmed that the “CTA, UTLA and influential ethnic studies professors on several CSU and UC campuses have warmly endorsed the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute (LESMC), a for-profit organization launched by the original ESMC drafters to market a ‘liberated’ curriculum that incorporates the main elements of the rejected first draft.”

“As Jews, and particularly as Holocaust survivors and their descendants, we say ‘never again!’ Never again will we permit anti-Semitism to flourish,” they wrote. “This is a moment when we cannot remain silent – and you must not, either. We implore you to stand up for Jewish students and the Jewish community in California and beyond, and to oppose this very dangerous bill.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, described the ethnic studies curriculum as an “antagonistic framing in which Jews are seen as oppressive and powerful, adopting age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes into educational materials that are ostensibly designed to combat racism."

"Somehow, in their attempt to fight bigotry, the authors of the ethnic studies model curriculum ended up working with individuals and organizations with a history of hating Jews," she wrote in Newsweek.