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1,000+ Californians, Including Nearly 70 Rabbis, Petition CA Jewish Caucus to Oppose Antisemitic Ethnic Studies Requirement Bill

California Assembly Likely to Debate Bill Next Week

Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, May 20, 2021 – More than a thousand Californians, including nearly 70 rabbis, today petitioned the California Legislative Jewish Caucus to oppose AB 101, a bill to make ethnic studies courses a high school graduation requirement. The California Assembly is likely to debate AB 101 next week.

Although AB 101 recommends that school districts use the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) recently approved by the CA State Board of Education, it allows for the use of any curriculum approved by local school boards, including the rejected antisemitic and anti-Zionist first-draft of ESMC. The first draft was opposed by 20,000 Californians, the vast majority of Jewish organizations and the Jewish Caucus, which stated clearly that it would “marginalize Jewish students and fuel hatred and discrimination against the Jewish community.” Governor Newsom promised the original curriculum “would never see the light of day.”

As the petition describes, however, the authors of the original curriculum have launched a massive campaign to lobby individual school districts to adopt their rejected draft, and to date at least 20 school districts have done so. The petition also details compelling evidence to suggest that the rejected first draft ESMC, or an even more extreme version of it, will likely be adopted and implemented by many if not most school districts in the state if AB 101 becomes law, and petitioners urge members of the CA Legislative Jewish Caucus “to take the lead once again in opposing this dangerous bill.”

The following are excerpts from the petition:

Dear Members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus,

Although there is still considerable disagreement in the Jewish community about the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) recently approved by the State Board of Education, both in terms of its specific content and its Critical Ethnic Studies framework, that is not our primary concern now. Rather, we are profoundly alarmed that while AB 101 recommends school districts use the SBE-approved ESMC in developing courses that would fulfill the graduation requirement, it also allows the use of any curriculum “approved by the governing board of the school district,” even the inflammatory and overtly antisemitic first draft of the ESMC. For reasons that will be explained below, we believe that if AB 101 becomes law, many if not most school districts in the state will choose to adopt the discredited first ESMC draft -- or an even more extreme version of it -- in implementing the law, thereby forcing all public and charter high school students to take a course that will incite tremendous ethnic and racial division, bigotry and harm, especially for Jewish students.

As you may know, while the CA Department of Education was revising the rejected first version of the curriculum, the original authors of that draft launched a massive campaign to promote their highly politicized curriculum – including its antisemitic, anti-Zionist and BDS-promoting lessons -- throughout the state. Immediately after their draft was rejected, they started an organization called Save CA Ethnic Studies and launched a petition demanding that the State Board of Education adopt their draft. Then they lobbied individual school districts throughout the state to vote on a resolution in support of both their inflammatory curriculum and “the work of the Save CA Ethnic Studies Coalition in bringing together the experts to address any issues," and to date, at least 20 districts have adopted it.

If AB 101 becomes law, hundreds of districts will have to quickly decide which ethnic studies curriculum to adopt as the basis for the new requirement, and although the bill encourages adoption of the SBE-approved ESMC, we believe that many, if not most, districts will prefer the highly problematic “liberated” curriculum because of the overwhelming endorsement of the antisemitic first draft of the ESMC by teachers unions and the higher education community, as well as the successful efforts of those promoting the “liberated” curriculum to create pathways for teacher training and professional development using a Critical Ethnic Studies framework.

Despite claims that AB 101 contains safeguards to prevent ethnic studies courses from promoting “bias, bigotry and discrimination,” such language is simply a restatement of a statute in the CA Education Code that has been on the books for decades. And as we have seen from highly politicized ethnic studies classes taught at the college level, these so-called guardrails will do nothing to prevent a curriculum based in Critical Ethnic Studies — whether approved by the SBE or promoted by the Liberated group — from portraying Jews and Israel in anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist ways, and inciting animus and harm towards Jewish students.

Given that the Jewish community does not have the bandwidth to oppose the adoption of the antisemitic “liberated" curriculum in each of the hundreds of school districts where it is likely to be considered if AB 101 becomes law, we urge you to take the lead once again in opposing this dangerous bill. The safety and well-being of our children and our community depends on it.

AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin recently testified before the California Assembly Education Committee in opposition to AB 101, and AMCHA submitted a formal and comprehensive position letter to the Committee. The letter details how and why any curriculum rooted in Critical Ethnic Studies can easily become a vehicle for inciting division and hate, including antisemitism since the discipline portrays Jewish Americans as racially privileged oppressors and Israel as a white supremacist apartheid state. AMCHA also points out that the rejected curriculum and the state-approved model curriculum stand in stark contrast to what legislators intended when they approved the bill mandating the development of the curriculum, which calls for a non-political, multicultural approach to ethnic studies that would prepare students in one of the most ethnically diverse states in the nation “to be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures.”

Last year AMCHA successfully urged Governor Newsom to veto AB 331, the precursor of AB 101, and 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 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.

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