Volume 31



Recent Antisemitism: A Schoolwide Concern

5 incidents of antisemitism at upper school raise concerns of entire community
Olivia Suddleson ’24
Poster at the Upper School in efforts to fight antisemitism.

The upper school experienced its fifth antisemitic incident in the past school year, according to a letter from President and Head of School Richard Commons dated Jan. 24.

A swastika, the notorious symbol of hate towards the Jewish community, was found on the bulletin board in the student lounge. This action, as well as previous incidents over the last six months, including the appearance of “swastika-like” symbols and the words “Hitler Rocks!” scratched into classroom desks, have sparked conversations within the Harvard-Westlake faculty and student body. The administration has responded with a school-wide effort to confront the problem.

Since these events, the school has increased security while also attempting to find the perpetrator(s) responsible for these acts of hate. The school has also brought speakers to campus, such as Ben Freeman, author of “Jewish Pride”, and soon will host Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Most of the school’s efforts so far have focused on the upper school – there have been no such speakers addressing the middle school campus – although both campuses will experience changes in the area of education in the future.
Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish describes the steps that the school is taking to tackle the issue of antisemitism.

“As an educational institution, starting with education is the number one thing,” Wimbish said. “Content that would point specifically to hate speech, antisemitism, in particular, the power of language, the power of symbols, history of the Holocaust.”

An increase in education is also a topic of discussion throughout the Jewish community on campus. The school’s Jewish affinity group, Jewish Culture and Antisemitism Awareness Club, adviser and math teacher Mayan Benami weighed in on the necessity of an increase in the education about Judaism.

“As a significant problem in the community, I would treat [antisemitism] as such, and I would offer more education on the Holocaust, the Jewish people, potentially on Israel, because a lot of times the Jewish people and Israel bleed into one political argument,” Benami said.

These incidents on campus coincide with an increase in antisemitism worldwide. There has been a significant increase in antisemitic events in the United States in the past few years, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The number of incidents of antisemitism in 2021 was the highest ever recorded since they began collecting such data in 1979. The alarming number of antisemitic incidents continued in 2022. Most notably, Kanye West, a popular rapper and performer, tweeted words of hate to the Jewish community, then followed it up with hateful statements supporting Nazis and Hitler. In the past week, there were two instances of Jewish men being shot outside of their synagogues in West Los Angeles, not far away from campus.

These events have caused some members of the Harvard-Westlake to confront their feelings about their religious identity. Levi Schwartz ’26 describes his personal experience and reaction to antisemitism as one of HW’s Jewish Federation Alliance ambassadors.

“It is scary how lightheartedly most people take everything that is going on, despite the severity of the situation and how many people are affected,” Schwartz said. “With all of the antisemitism in the world right now, I feel less comfortable in my Judaism and expressing my Jewish identity to the rest of the world.”

JCAAC and the Jewish Federation Alliance have had meetings to discuss the incidents at school as well as the Kanye West matter, providing a safe environment to converse with fellow Jews about the issues at hand. In the spring, the JCAAC will lead an assembly at the middle school for Yom Hashoah, a Jewish holiday commemorating all of those who were lost during the Holocaust.

Although these hateful incidents are directed towards Jews, they have consequences for the entire community. Romy Harari ’26, co-leader of JCAAC at the middle school describes the possibility of an outbreak of hatred.

“This doesn’t only affect the Jews but it puts a negative type of feeling and atmosphere out into the ether which affects the whole school community,” Harari said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The SPECTRUM
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All comments will be approved by a student editor. Comments containing inappropriate language will not be approved.
All SPECTRUM Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *