An opportunity crossed my path to make a real difference and I took it

California Governor Gavin Newsom and California Department of Education Chancellors, while I wholeheartedly support the concept and commend your signing into law AB1460 mandating ethnic studies as part of college matriculation requirements, a little fine tuning is required. 

It should, in theory, serve to broaden an appreciation for the history of thy neighbor and will help to assist California on the cutting edge of taking steps to combat ‘racism.’ However, the plan limits itself to educating California youth regarding the history and customs of four specific resident populations: African-Americans; Asian-Americans; Latina and Latin-Americans; and Native-Americans. This should serve as an effective resource of knowledge that students can discuss with parents, grandparents, siblings, as well as neighbors and friends.  Yet, it misses an opportunity to address the needs of another resident, vulnerable population currently suffering the effects of the other ‘ism’: anti-Semitism.

California has the fourth largest educational system in the US and AB1460 may serve as a trend setter for the rest of our nation to emulate. As such, I think it most appropriate to see if antisemitism awareness education can be incorporated somewhere within the program when the C.D.E. hammers out the details in the near future. After all, how many opportunities cross our path where we can make a difference in ameliorating prejudice? Governor Newsom and Chancellors, this may well be one of them. 

Unless one has experienced Anti-Semitism personally; I doubt that they can ever be in a position to fully understand the intensity of this abomination. 

For starters, it’s a spectrum of discriminatory activities aimed solely at Jews. It ranges from hate speech to violent and potentially lethal confrontations, often associated with property damage including desecration of religious and cultural institutions.

For a long time White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Radical Islamists, and Iran and her proxies were among those at the forefront leading the charge against Jews and Israel. Later, various subgroups supplemented their ranks, including a number who tactically projected the less threatening persona of anti-Zionism, effectively masking an underlying anti-Jewish agenda.

To a degree, each claimed some legitimacy from the endless flow of anti-Israel/anti-Jewish rhetoric spewing forth from the United Nations; various social bonding groups including Skin heads; the KKK; and spiritual leaders the likes of Minister Louis Farrakhan, among others. 

This set the groundwork for relative newcomers including Students for Justice in Palestine and others of similar ilk. S.J.P. found welcoming breeding grounds on college campuses across the United States. There, they challenged Israel’s legitimacy and threatened her very viability via Boycott, Divestment and Sanction demands. With no shortage of receptive teachers and angry students, their ranks swelled.  This was facilitated, as few administrators and educators were willing to openly oppose contentious student groups operating under a cloak of “social Justice” and within an atmosphere of free speech privileges. 

To inflame passions, they utilized trigger words such as “apartheid state” and “genocide” in conjunction with unsubstantiated allegations of brutality towards Palestinians. When the media is present, the provocative drama intensifies. Repeating the party line over and over again, the leaders convinced themselves and their followers of the legitimacy of their debasing verbiage; similar to Nazis tactics utilized in the 1930s. 

Adding to the mix are antagonistic, young and well-educated, recently elected politicians, including U.S. Representatives: Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (D-Minn 5th D) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mi 13th), among others. They seemingly close their eyes and minds to the consequences of their harmful and baseless rhetoric; ignoring any appreciation for the accurate history and needs of their Jewish constituents seemingly in favor of pursuing anti-Israel agendas. This further facilitated agitation. Understand that criticism of Israel does not constitute Antisemitism unless it is geared to facilitate its destruction. 

Recognizing vulnerability, provocateurs frequently act as if they have free rein to regard Jews and others who support Israel as targets of opportunity. Not surprisingly, hate-incidents are on the rise on campuses and elsewhere.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offered specific recourse for discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Yet, Jewish students found themselves vulnerable to discriminatory religious attacks. Even with President Trump’s 12/11/2019 Executive Order directing the Department of Education to consider anti-Israel bias on the basis of Jewish ethnicism; yet at the end of the day, Ken Marcus, Office of Civil Rights will have to determine in court if this E.O. proves a sufficient deterrent. So far, I have doubts. 

With Jews increasingly labeled as a so-called “privileged” subclass within the white race, a distortion of fact; the ability to gain an effective legislative consensus to combat organized antisemitism by definition is proving complicated. 

It will, therefore, require an organized outcry from a broad base of educated American citizenry; to bring pressure to bear upon congress to motivate it to tackle the joint injustices of racism and the other ‘ism’; antisemitism. This abomination respects nothing and makes itself visible any opportunity it wishes, even under the watchful eye of the media. 

At what should have been a defining moment within our nation’s history; Black Americans marching with others including Jews to confront the brutal death of George Floyd; was instead hijacked by episodes of focused hate. A contingent broke away and flagrantly attacked Jewish individuals, businesses, homes, and religious institutions, within the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, as one case among others. 

In this instance, perpetrators stole much more than money and possessions. They stole the dignity from another group of historically recognized oppressed individuals: aged Holocaust survivors. This was made even more frightening with law enforcement appearing restricted in their involvement. To some, this was reminiscent of the November 9-10, 1938 Kristallnacht Holocaust nightmare. In both cases, acts of anarchy appeared tolerated and therefore proceeded and will likely continue to do so; until America gets educated and its priorities inline.

This is just sampling of the litany of hostility towards Jews, little doubt inspired by baseless preconceived notions and their resultant prejudices; a result of educational ignorance. 

Please keep in mind that there are Jewish students within the Latina and Latin community; the African American Community; the far Eastern community, and the Native American community. All students within the four select groups will surely interact with and hopefully be open to seek friendships and an understanding with their fellow Jewish students and visa versa, during their high school and college years and hopefully thereafter. Understanding thy neighbor encompases understanding their history, customs, beliefs; as well as compassion for their pain. 

Governor Gavin Newsom and C.D.E. Chancellors, balanced ethnic studies have the capability of repairing misunderstandings and erroneous preconceived notions. This opportunity must not exclude California Jews.

About the Author
Bruce Portnoy, is a published op-ed contributor to the "Miami Herald," "Washington Examiner," and "The American Thinker"; as well as the author of the Geo-political thriller, "First, the 'Saturday People', and then the..."
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