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CHS Faces Increased Instances of Anti-Semitism

Rebecca Jackson, News Editor

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Principal Joan Benz announced to the school  March 9 that a student wrote the “n-word” and “Heil Hitler” on a classroom desk, resulting in student outrage and disappointment. As has been the case with the country at large, incidents of Anti-Semitism have increased dramatically over the last couple of months.

 

Potomac is 3.1 percent Jewish, a high percentage compared to most of the country, and has always dealt with the threat of Anti-Semitism. However, recent incidents have been more frequent than ever; Jewish Community Center (JCC) bomb threats and anti-Semitic texts are two of the most recent hate acts against Jews that Potomac has faced.

 

According to News 4’s Shomari Stone, there have been more than 90 hate crimes towards JCCs and day schools in the U.S. in the past two months.

 

Similar to many other JCCs and Jewish organizations across the country, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) of Rockville, Md., received a bomb threat with anti-Semitic intent on Feb. 27.

 

According to News 4’s Peter Alexander, JCCs and Jewish Day Schools across the country received 20 total bomb threats on Feb. 27 alone.

About 11 states were affected, although police did not find any explosive or harmful devices upon investigation. In Maryland, the cities of Rockville and Annapolis both received calls threatening JCC’s and Jewish Day Schools.

 

“I’ve always gone to a Jewish day school but I’ve never once before this felt threatened because of my religion,” CESJDS junior Dara Greenwald said. “I’m definitely more concerned and the idea of my school or community actually being threatened seems more possible every day.”

 

As a result of these recent threats, CESJDS increased security and made student safety their top priority. In order to remain vigilant, both CESJDS and CHS administration asked students to have heightened awareness of their surroundings and report any anti-semitic behavior or incidents to administration.

 

“The school is taking a good first step with these ‘education sessions’ on world religions,” senior and vice president of the CHS Jewish Student Union Dan Alpert said. “For the future, I think that it is hard to change a mindset, but if the school can continue to educate students on world religions, and in this case, Judaism [and hate crimes], it could be beneficial.”

 

As a public, non-sectarian high school, CHS’s administration wants everyone to feel welcome, including the Jewish population. Administration upholds a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes and has reported the incident to the police department.

 

“We must stand together to stop these devastating hate-based incidents,” Benz said in the email sent out to the CHS community. “These actions do not reflect the values of CHS or MCPS.”

 

In addition to the classroom incident, a CHS student experienced an anti-Semitic rant from an unkown number on his personal cell phone. The family reported the threatening ‘jokes’ to CHS and the Montgomery County Police Department.

“I received Holocaust-related texts from an anonymous number,” sophomore Joseph Gardemal said. “ I believe that the sender wasn’t aware of the weight such jokes could have, especially when anti-semitism is on the rise from both the right and left around the country.”

 

Regardless of whether these were meant to be jokes or real threats, CHS students must not underestimate the seriousness of such anti-semitic actions.

 

“I don’t think anti-Semitism has really been on the rise here [at CHS] but I do feel like there is an increase in Jew, specifically Holocaust, related jokes,” Gardemal said.

 

Many students at CHS, including Gardemal, have had ancestors die in the Holocaust, and take great offense to these texts and the ‘Heil Hitler’ graffiti. This is not the first incident at CHS this year in which student graffiti that attacked another racial or religious group was found on school property. A “whites only” sign was found on a boys bathroom door on Nov. 10.

 

“It’s not something I would expect within CHS. I was also disappointed, because this probably wasn’t the first time this has happen, yet they decide to only make an announcement now,” Alpert said. “Any hate crime should be condemned immediately by the school, no matter what the case is.”

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