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San Luis Obispo Jewish community says CA ethnic studies curriculum omits Jews

Posted at 6:57 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 22:08:33-04

The recently released draft of the new California ethnic studies curriculum, which would be the first of its kind in the country, is sparking outrage among Jews who say their experience was omitted from the guide.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond addressed the issue Wednesday during a press conference in Sacramento.

"The Jewish experience has a place in this curriculum and all our conversations," Thurmond said.

He called for changes to the ethnic studies curriculum amid outrage from the Jewish community.

"It eliminated any discussion about the American Jewish experience and eliminated any discussion of anti-Semitism which is real and alive in today's world," said San Luis Obispo Jewish Federation Pres. Adrienne Shivers.

The curriculum's current draft covers racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia but excludes anti-Semitism.

"Hate groups are going after everybody and Jews are pretty high on that hate list of groups these days," Shivers said.

"In their glossary of definitions, they don't even define the word anti-Semitism," said Linda Becker, a member of the Ohr Tzagon congregation in Paso Robles.

Becker believes the document promotes Jewish stereotypes.

In a recent letter to the Instructional Quality Commission, the state's Jewish Caucus calls the curriculum inaccurate and misleading. The letter also claims it reflects an anti-Jewish bias.

"The right kind of legislation should be truly inclusive and not exclusive of any particular group and not marginalize or vilify any particular group," Shivers said.

Thurmond said the absence of Jews in the curriculum was likely because ethnic studies traditionally focuses on African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and indigenous people.

"Ethnic studies has a specific framework, but I think the task for us will be to establish California's version of what ethnic studies looks like," Thurmond said.

Jews aren't the only ones calling for inclusion in the curriculum. Thurmond said his department has received push-back from many other groups who feel marginalized by the current ethnic studies guidelines.

Thursday is the last day for public comment on the current draft of the curriculum. The commission will then review the document and recommend revisions at its September meeting.