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In an attempt to fight anti-Semitism, local officials turn to high schoolers

BOROUGH PARK — The schools chancellor, borough president, the city’s first lady and other local officials gathered in a fourth-floor classroom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Borough Park Friday morning to discuss anti-Semitism and hate crimes amid a spike in incidents across the city and country.

The school is part of a new Department of Education initiative to boost resources to curriculums teaching the historical context and current effects of anti-Semitism for middle and high schools in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park, three neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.

About two dozen students in the 10th grade history class sat down in groups and discussed their experiences with discrimination.

“There is no coincidence that kids, students, Americans, hear rhetoric and the rhetorical hate and that it’s manifesting in the streets,” Chancellor Richard Carranza said. “We believe that the school system can play a significant role in turning the tide of hate that unfortunately has started to wash up on our shores.”

The DOE’s social studies curriculum already includes teachings about anti-Semitism, but Carranza said the new programming will bring more resources to that curriculum and also discuss what hate crimes and hate speech are.

Borough President Eric Adams talks with a student from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School about discrimination. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
ebrooklyn media: Photo by Paul Frangipane
Borough President Eric Adams talks with a student from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School about discrimination.

The mayor announced the program – which will be taught citywide for the 2020-2021 school year – after incidents of anti-Semitism in Crown Heights and Williamsburg, in addition to Monsey, NY, where a man stormed a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home and stabbed five people on Dec. 28.

Anti-Semitic hate crime complaints were up 21 percent as of Sunday, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Borough President Eric Adams put part of the blame of the spike on cultural isolation, saying different ethnic groups in the city aren’t communicating with each other enough.

“The reality is that as diverse as we are, we live in silos and we don’t know much about each other,” Adams told the class. “We build these imaginary walls where we don’t communicate with each other and that is why the obesity of hate has taken over our bodies because we allow love to fall into a level of atrophy.”

The rise in anti-Semitism also comes alongside a decline in Holocaust awareness among young people, with 41 percent of millennials believing that fewer than two million Jews were killed in the genocide, according to a 2018 report. Six million Jews and 11 million people total were killed in the Holocaust.

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