Linda Ettinger Lieberman
Life Member, Hadassah Westchester

Hate Has No Place Here: Hadassah Stands Up to Antisemitism

Image courtesy of Hadassah.
Image courtesy of Hadassah.

“Hate has no place here!”

How often have you heard, read or spoken this phrase since October 7, 2023? An increasing crescendo of such declarations has appeared worldwide since Hamas’ attack on Israel. Nowhere does this seem to happen more often than in the US, where protesters have been prevalent in Times Square, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and college campuses, as well as in synagogues and schools. Where does one learn about antisemitism and hate?

As Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in their 1949 Broadway musical South Pacific, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.
You’ve got to be taught from year to year.
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear.
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made.
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late.
Before you are six or seven or eight.
To hate all the people your relatives hate.
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

If this is true, where do children and teens learn to hate? By kindergarten, age 5 or so, they may have already been exposed to hate online and on television or through graffiti, signs, banners and tee shirts. It happens at home, in the community and elsewhere.

They may face hate at their elementary and high schools or colleges. The hate may have begun or increased in the aftermath of Hamas’ attacks on Israel last fall.

I know of several egregious examples of antisemitism and anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas bias in New Jersey and New York public and private schools.

In New Jersey, there was a Board of Education email to staff that encouraged “teaching about Ramadan because of the genocide against Palestinians.” Fortunately, in the wake of community protests, the email was hastily withdrawn.

In classrooms and social media of the Brooklyn (NY) 261 public school district, a K-5 Arab “culture map” provided by the Qatar Institute of American Culture (part of the Qatar Foundation, funded by the sovereign kingdom) showed a country called Palestine, with no country labeled “Israel” and no Israeli flag–just Palestinian flags and symbols and slogans in Arabic.

If you are a teacher, it is imperative that non-biased materials are available in your classroom. It is okay to use outside materials or home-made ones. It is never too late to prevent hate and bias.

If you are a parent, monitor your children’s texts. Discuss their daily lessons with them. Don’t just accept the curriculum the teacher provides.

Are your kids feeling more uncomfortable at school or on the playground since the war began? Do they hide their kippot, if they normally wear them? Do they suddenly want to, or not want to, wear the blue and white Israeli pins and badges? Listen to what the children are saying as you are driving a carpool. They might not be able to tell you why they feel the way they feel, but they can tell you what they are experiencing.

Schools usually choose textbooks from a few major publishers who generally base content on the largest states’ curricula. It is time, once again, for us to review current texts and syllabi to ensure that our children are presented with both fair and balanced materials so that they can make educated decisions for themselves.

Several decades ago, a number of Jewish organizations set up programs to monitor classroom materials. Among those initiatives was Hadassah’s Curriculum Watch, chaired by Sandra Alfonsi. Members nationwide submitted examples of classroom handouts, worksheets, textbooks, media presentations and syllabi that a volunteer professional committee reviewed for bias, stereotyping, inaccuracy and the omission of pertinent facts. The winnowed examples and suggested corrective measures were then presented to publishers in the hope that they would change the text in future editions. Each of these efforts met with success.

In the 1970s and 1980s, I was involved in a similar effort to identify sexual stereotypes in professional audiovisual materials and school texts. Second Lady Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Gore led a corps of volunteers who monitored music lyrics and media content consumed by children. These movements led to the labeling of materials with regard to their suitability for children of different ages, based on content.

These issues continue from generation to generation, exacerbated by the proliferation of media channels and information sources. The task of continual monitoring seems daunting, but what is the alternative? What are you doing about this crisis? What can you do?

Can you share examples of what type of monitoring has worked, where and why? Let’s see what we can do together to make our world a kinder, more compassionate place, where all of us can live side by side in peace.

About the Author
Linda Ettinger Lieberman, a Hadassah life member for 45 years, is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle.. Her maternal grandmother, Gusssie Stempler Langer, from whom Linda inherited her love of Hadassah, gave her a Hadassah Life Membership legacy on her deathbed in 1980. Linda has held leadership roles, from the Elana Chapter of White Plains, NY to advisor of Renaissance and Scarsdale Chapters, and Westchester Region Board, where she has held many portfolios, ranging from President to Membership, Fundraising, Advocacy, HMO, Public Relations, and Webmistress. In addition, Linda served on the National Hadassah Curriculum Watch and other committees. The winner of the Henrietta Szold Award in honor of Westchester Hadassah's 40th anniversary, she is a two-time Hands of Healing and National Hadassah Leadership awardee. Linda is part of a four generation Hadassah family. She and her husband are both Founders and Keepers of the Gate. He is a Hadassah Associate. Linda and her daughter are Hadassah Life Members. The Lieberman family resides in White Plains, New York. Previously, Linda served as editorial coordinator, writer and editor for Moskowitz Jacobs, Inc., a market research firm, publishing books, presentations and articles in peer-reviewed academic journals worldwide. In addition, she has published in local and regional newspapers and the Jewish press. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Bridgeport in addition to a M.Ed. in Curriculum Design and Development from the University of Virginia. In her spare time, Linda is currently studying Russian, Yiddish and other languages in furtherance of family genealogy.
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