NYC public schools under fire for failing to address antisemitism: 'Not seeing any action'

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A 110% rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in New York last year set a disturbing new record for the Empire State, and 60% of the outbreaks of Jew hatred unfolded in New York City.

The exploding levels of antisemitism were revealed last month by the Anti-Defamation League and have implications for recent incidents of anti-Jewish rhetoric and behavior in the city’s public school system.  

“The failure by the school system to impose consequences on Jew hatred is a major factor in the increased bigotry we see every day,” said Brooke Goldstein, a human rights attorney, executive director of The Lawfare Project and founder of the End Jew Hatred movement.  

Noting recent antisemitic events, Goldstein demanded more needed to be done.

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“Whether at Hillcrest High School, where a Jewish teacher was reportedly targeted and hunted down just for being Jewish, or at Origins High School, where faculty reported a pattern of harassment and discrimination lasting for years, or now at schools in Staten Island, we are not seeing any action.”

Jewish students and their parents, along with local politicians and community leaders, are raising alarm bells over shocking outbreaks of antisemitism in the New York City public school system.

They spoke with Fox News Digital about what they say are serious acts of anti-Jewish hatred coupled with a public school administration that has turned a blind eye to growing antisemitism.

Jewish students at Susan E. Wagner High School on Staten Island told Fox News Digital that after the terrorist organization Hamas invaded Israel Oct. 7, a Middle Eastern student “screamed free Palestine” and could be heard saying  “f—ing Jew” on the way to school.

The Jewish students said some anti-Israel students “claim they are not antisemitic and say Israel should not exist.” One student of Middle Eastern origin said it would be “OK if the Holocaust happened,” according to a witness at the school.

Palestinian protesters in NYC

The Jewish students requested anonymity due to what they claim is an anti-Jewish environment at the school and a fear of reprisals from pro-Hamas students. According to the Jewish student, one student told an Israeli “that Jewish people and Palestinian people can’t coexist,” and “kept calling me an Israeli and Zionist.”

At a meeting of student leaders at the school, Fox News Digital was told all accusations of antisemitism were rejected by the anti-Israel students. One example given was of anti-Israel agitators deliberately agitating outside the Jewish Community Center. It was also claimed that a student was permitted to wear a Hamas T-shirt at the school.

The U.S. government has classified Hamas a foreign terrorist organization. The Hamas jihadi movement murdered roughly 1,200 people Oct. 7 in southern Israel, including over 30 Americans. Hamas is holding over 130 people hostage in the Gaza Strip, including U.S. citizens.

Anti-Israel protest at NYC high school

Many of the same students, it was claimed, also participated in an anti-Israel rally attended by 200 activists across from Susan E. Wagner high school during school hours in March with antisemitic groups promoting the destruction of the Jewish state.

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Pro-Palestine rally in NYC

Fox News Digital obtained a photograph of the pro-Hamas slogan “Free Palestine. From the River to the Sea” scrawled on a teacher’s blackboard at Susan E. Wagner High School. The pro-Hamas battle cry has been widely interpreted to be antisemitic because it urges the eradication of the Jewish state.

“Among the students were members of the ‘Shut It Down For Palestine’ coalition, a movement consisting of a multitude of groups calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to Zionism,” according to the Staten Island Advance. “Supporters of the Party for Socialism and Liberation bolstered the student-driven rally, with some leading chants and eventually directing students to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Manor Road.”

A parent of a Jewish student at another city high school told Fox News Digital his family received an anonymous call with respect to his daughter. The antisemitic caller allegedly said, “Stop the genocide. If she can’t stop it, she will get hurt.” 

Rabbi Levi Katzman, who oversees the Jewish organization Chabad on the South Shore of Staten Island, told Fox News Digital, “I know students from Wagner and not only Wagner. Students reached out to me and their parents. They feel they are being harassed by pro-Hamas students at the school. “

He said one pro-Hamas student said, “Now would be a good time for the Holocaust.” 

“The kids feel the faculty is protecting the pro-Hamas students,” Katzman added.

A large crowd of Israel supporters holding Israeli flags in NYC

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Katzman believes “the higher-ups in Susan Wagner brush it under the rug. They make believe they do something, The Department of Education has an intuitional antisemitism problem that trickles down. For such outrageous anitsemitism to be tolerated it is insane. I am sure many of the children won’t speak because of retaliation.” 

He urged that “the community needs to stand up because this is a government-funded institution.”

Joe Borelli, the Republican minority Leader of the New York City Council who represents Staten Island’s South Shore, told Fox News Digital, “It is easier to see foolishness in high school kids than it is in our elite students at Columbia University. There is absolutely no reason for any kid to be threatened or harassed on the way to high school. The administration has to step up.” 

Borelli and his Republican colleague, Inna Vernikov, who serves as the minority whip of the New York City Council, where she represents the 48th District in Brooklyn, have spearheaded actions to blunt the mushrooming antisemitism in New York City.

“Antisemitic harassment, bullying and woke indoctrination have become the norm across our public school system,” Vernikov told Fox News Digital. “Swastikas, death threats and Hitler glorification are all a result of a failure to properly educate our youth, and we must assign consequences to bad actors.

“Statements are welcomed, but action is required. Instead, complainants are consistently ignored or met with indifference.”

Reached by Fox News Digital, a spokesman for David C. Banks, the chancellor of New York City Public Schools, told Fox News Digital, “The chancellor has repeatedly made it clear that all forms of bigotry have no place in our public schools — including both antisemitism and Islamophobia. The superintendent is fully engaged with the Wagner High School community and is working to ensure the school climate is safe and welcoming to all students.”

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Marion Wilson is the Staten Island schools superintendent.

The chancellor’s spokesman said Wilson “helped the principal develop a comprehensive action plan, connect with groups of students and engage with professional development on creating an inclusive school community. While we do not comment on individual incidents, we do investigate every allegation and follow up with necessary action when needed.” 

The chancellor’s spokesman did not answer a Fox News Digital question about the nature of alleged Islamophobia complaints that were also received. According to an anti-Israel flyer obtained by Fox News Digital that was circulated at Susan E. Wagner, students complained about the Wagner administration not permitting students to “wear merchandise that’s in support of Hamas.” 

The flyer claimed a double standard because a student was allowed to wear an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt.

Eric Adams speaking at City Hall during presser

Wilson did not respond to Fox News Digital email and phone messages. The principal, Susan E. Wagner, did not answer Fox News Digital press queries.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Adams cited “some steps we’ve taken in recent months to combat incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia in our schools.” 

“We have continued to expand and update our vetted classroom and curricular resources on topics such as the Middle East crisis, Islamophobia and antisemitism, including a recent antisemitism guide from the Museum of Jewish Heritage,” the spokeswoman said.

“On March 13, at a citywide principal conference, all principals received comprehensive safety training on applying the discipline code, uplifting our Respect for All program, and crisis de-escalation.

“Prior to Respect for All Week in February, we launched additional training to Respect for All liaisons on bullying prevention and incident reporting, which is ongoing. We also re-shared reporting pathways with school communities to ensure allegations of inappropriate conduct or bullying/harassment can be reported and investigated swiftly.”

Brooke Goldstein, the human rights attorney, told Fox New Digital “the lack of transparency and accountability for highly charged and inaccurate curriculum and classroom content is only one part of the problem.”

“Change comes through the legal system and through activism,” she said. “Parents who see their children affected by antisemitism at school need to come forward. They have rights, and those rights include being free of discrimination and harassment. Teachers have those same rights, and I encourage anyone experiencing Jew hatred to reach out to The Lawfare Project for pro bono help.”

Questions sent to congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., who represents Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn, were not returned. 

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