Princeton Public Schools may soon decide on antisemitism definition

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Princeton Public Schools officials hope to reach a recommendation on whether to adopt a definition of antisemitism, as requested by some parents, by the end of April.

The school board’s Student Achievement Committee has been mulling over potentially adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IRHA) definition of antisemitism. It was discussed at the committee’s March 8 meeting and again at its April 11 meeting.

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Interim Superintendent of Schools Kathie Foster said there has been much discussion since the March 8 meeting. The next step is for internal discussions to be held among the administrative team, staff and supervisors.

A recommendation may be made by the end of April, Foster said.

In the meantime, school district officials’ goal is to keep students feeling safe and wanting to be in school, Foster said. Expressions of antisemitism – through actions, words or gestures – is not acceptable.

Adoption of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism has been pressed by parents, some of whom signed a Nov. 21, 2023 letter to school district officials to encourage them to address the rise in antisemitiism.

The IHRA statement is a non-binding working definition of antisemitism. It describes antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions or religious facilities,” it states.

Examples include denying Jews their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, as well as applying double standards “by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded by any other democratic nation.”

Other examples cited by www.holocaustremembrance.com include accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrong-doing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

The IHRA was created in 1998 by former Swedish prime minister Goran Persson to promote Holocaust education and remembrance. Sweden officially took a neutral stance during World War II.

The goal of the IHRA is to “foster education, remembrance and research about what happened in the past (and) to build a world without genocide in the future,” according to www.holocaustremembrance.com.

The Holocaust is associated with the murder of six million Jews, but victims also included five million military prisoners of war, political prisoners, Romany (gypsies) and others that the Nazi Party deemed undesirable.

The signers of the Nov. 21, 2023 letter to the school district officials stated that the “unprecedented rise in antisemitism has made us fearful, especially seeing how it has spread and taken over many college campuses.”

The Princeton Public Schools is in a prime position to ensure that Princeton High School graduates “are prepared to lead lives of purpose and not hate,” the letter said.

The letter urged school district officials to create a unit on antisemitism in the required “Pathways to Racial Literacy” course at Princeton Middle School and Princeton High School.

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