74 Jewish and Education Groups Join Thousands of Petitioners in Demanding Newsom Veto Ethnic Studies Requirement Bill
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, September 30, 2021 – Seventy-four religious, civil rights and education organizations today urged Governor Gavin Newsom to veto AB 101, a bill mandating an ethnic studies high school graduation requirement. The California legislature recently voted to advance AB 101, and the bill is now on the desk of the Governor, who has until Oct. 10 to act.
In the past couple of weeks, thousands of Californians, hundreds of California high school students and parents, and hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their descendants have urged Newsom to veto the bill. And the LA Times editorialized against AB 101, urging a veto, and citing the same concerns raised by the petitioners.
“We are 74 organizational supporters of the California Jewish community, who are deeply concerned about the ethnic studies requirement bill, AB 101, and the enormously harmful impact we believe it will have on Jewish students and the Jewish community if it becomes law. We strongly urge you to veto this bill,” wrote the groups in their letter to Newsom today.
The organizations are alarmed because, although AB 101 was amended to include language expressing the Legislature’s intent that local educational agencies (LEAs) “not use the portions of the draft model curriculum that were not adopted by the Instructional Quality Commission due to concerns related to bias, bigotry, and discrimination,” the bill does not, and by law cannot, prevent an LEA from adopting any part of the overtly antisemitic first draft of the ESMC. The first draft was opposed by 20,000 Californians, virtually every Jewish organization in the state, and the Legislative Jewish Caucus, whose members rightly warned that such a curriculum would “marginalize Jewish students and fuel hatred and discrimination against the Jewish community.”
When that draft failed, the state went through multiple rounds of revisions and ultimately approved a curriculum that omitted the antisemitic and anti-Zionist content. In protest, though, the authors of the first draft withdrew their names from the state’s final approved curriculum and founded the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute (LESMC), and their curriculum is expected to be even more antisemitic than the original ESMC. The Liberated group’s website smears Israel with false charges of “settler colonialism” and “apartheid” and uses classic anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish wealth and power to vilify Jewish organizations speaking out about anti-Semitism; encourages teachers to “create a space within your school” to engage in anti-Zionist activism and to fight the “Zionist backlash,” identified as “white supremacy”; promotes anti-Zionist groups calling for Israel’s destruction; and provides “skill-building” and “training” on how to start your own BDS campaign.
Making matters worse, the groups point out, is that the Liberated approach has been endorsed by the state’s two largest teachers’ unions, the California Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Los Angeles, and Cal State and UC ethnic studies departments, and Liberated has already been successful in promoting its curriculum and consulting services in Hayward, Santa Cruz, Jefferson, Salinas, San Francisco and San Diego school districts.
“If AB 101 becomes law, hundreds of districts will have to quickly decide which curriculum to adopt as the basis for the new requirement, and although the bill encourages adoption of the SBE-approved ESMC, the reality is that many, if not most, districts will prefer the highly problematic Liberated curriculum because of its overwhelming support from major teachers’ unions and the higher education community, as well as the successful efforts of the LESMC group to create pathways for teacher training and professional development using their antisemitic curriculum,” wrote the groups.
“Especially now, as the recent conflict in the Middle East has spilled over into vicious attacks on Jews all over the world, including in California, we believe a bill that facilitates the widespread adoption of an overtly antisemitic curriculum in fulfillment of the mandated graduation requirement directly threatens the safety and well-being of Jewish students and the Jewish community,” cautioned the groups.
Last year AMCHA successfully urged Governor Newsom to veto AB 331, the precursor of AB 101, and AMCHA’s Director, Rossman-Benjamin was the first to expose the way in which the discipline of Critical Ethnic Studies is deeply antisemitic and anti-Zionist. AMCHA has led several coalition efforts to educate officials about the dangers of a curriculum based on Critical Ethnic Studies. AMCHA’s Director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, has testified before the California Senate Education Committee and the Assembly Education Committee against AB 101, and provided evidence that if AB 101 becomes law, most school districts will adopt some version of the rejected antisemitic first draft.
AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.