Montgomery County needs to make a greater effort to combat antisemitism


Aliza Bellas

By the numbers: How the state of antisemitism affects American Jews

Lena Nadaner and Lily Rulnick

Our stomachs churn as we hear of another local antisemitic act, followed by the panic of texting our loved ones who could possibly be victims. This fearful sensation has been occurring more often in recent months, which means that different forms of responses need to be considered by local officials.

Antisemitic flyers were found on the porches of many Kensington homes on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 22. Bethesda Magazine reported that the homes of members of Temple Emanuel were included in this strike.  

On Jan. 21, just a day before, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the Board of Education declared that swastikas were drawn on desks at three schools last week, according to Bethesda Magazine. MCPS, the Montgomery County Council and the school board condemned the acts. 

These local abuses, along with the series of antisemitic incidents over the past few months, are reflected in the rise of antisemitic tropes across the country. A recent Anti-Defamation League (ADL) study found that 85% of Americans believe in at least one anti-Jewish trope. When will the terror end? 

At CESJDS, we are in a bubble of tolerance. The high school curriculum is embedded with the history of antisemitism. However, MCPS students do not have the same privilege. Jewish students at MCPS schools do not have access to the support that JDS provides, and non-Jewish students do not have proper education on Jewish history and culture, which leads to ignorance, misconceptions and ultimately, the hatred that has been seen over the last few months.  

The overwhelming majority of the MCPS schools that have been the targets of the antisemitic abuses have responded to the hateful acts by expressing words of condemnation. However, in light of these recent incidents, it is evident that this condemnation has not prevented antisemitic behavior.

Therefore, a different course of action to combat this growing rise in antisemitism must be taken. Increased education about Judaism could help to clarify the falsity of antisemitic tropes. For example, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has a student-to-student program where Jewish teens from a diverse set of backgrounds and denominations give presentations at local schools to educate teenagers about Judaism. 

MCPS should make it a priority to increase presentations from organizations similar to JCRC, as well as implement educational programming into their curriculum explaining the root of antisemitic tropes and how students, teachers and faculty can create a safe community for Jews. 

Tilden Middle School, one of the schools sprayed with antisemitic graffiti last week, is bringing in a Holocaust survivor to speak to the school as a response to recent events, which is a great example of the kind of education and exposure that needs to happen. 

Outside of the school system, the Montgomery County Council must prioritize this issue by creating a task force to fight antisemitism. This task force should have several meetings and produce a clear set of policies to promote a safe and inclusive community for Jews. 

As these antisemitic events are happening more often, we must not wait to take action. So far, our county has been lucky; none of the acts in the past few months have been physical. But, the possibility of violence shouldn’t be ignored, which only further emphasizes the need for action to be taken to establish new preventative measures against antisemitism.  


Updated on January 28, 2023.