Australian Jewish community shaken by recent string of antisemitic incidents in schools - World Jewish Congress

Australian Jewish community shaken by recent string of antisemitic incidents in schools

Australian Jewish community shaken by recent string of antisemitic incidents in schools

Australia department of education

A recent string of antisemitic incidents in Australia’s education sector has caused Vic Alhadeff, CEO of New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD), to describe the situation as a “matter of profound concern.” Alhadeff's comments came after several incidents were reported across Australia.

In New South Wales, a 15-year-old Jewish student transferred schools after a fellow student drew a picture of the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and talked about “dissecting Jews.” The Jewish student reported a wider pattern of antisemitic behavior at the school, noting that swastikas and Nazi salutes were a common sight on the premises.

“One of my history teachers also compared Palestinian terrorism to Jewish resistance during the Holocaust,” the student said. She added that because of this pattern she avoided wearing her Star of David necklace while at school.

Alhadeff confirmed reports that JBOD has been working with the school's leadership to address the “endemic problem.”

 “The Jewish student has identified approximately 10 students whom she claims have been involved in perpetrating these and other incidents…There is an urgent need to address the culture in this school, which permits such conduct to occur.”

Alhadeff has also been in contact with administrators at a school in Central West, Australia, to discuss “constructive ways forward” after a student told multiple Jewish teachers he was going to kill them because he was a Nazi. The student was suspended for six days following the incident. 

The Victoria Department of Education has also launched a full investigation of antisemitic bullying at Brighton Secondary College, after two Jewish brothers were physically harassed, verbally abused, and cyberbullied. In one incident, the older brother’s kippah was forcibly removed and desecrated. The problem is not contained within the student body. On numerous occasions, teachers refused to refer to the children’s Israeli identity, and instead labeled them as Palestinian.

Education Minister James Merlino reiterated a “zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism”, and added that, “these accusations are extremely serious, and I will not stand for this kind of behavior.”

Referencing the investigation, Merlino said, “I want to get to the bottom of exactly what has happened here to ensure they were dealt with appropriately.”

Beyond the confines of schools there have been multiple reported incidents of antisemitism, including sightings of swastikas across the country. In June, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) apologized after the outlet published a derogatory caricature of the country’s Jewish treasurer. The cartoon portrayed a group of government officials and a team of explorers, including the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who is portrayed as having a hooknose and wearing a head covering while carrying a golden staff in the shape of a dollar sign.

In February, the WJC-affiliated Executive Council of Australian Jewry published a report finding that the 368 reported antisemitic incidents over the most recent 12-month period was 56% higher than the average number of incidents over the previous seven years. Incidents involving graffiti more than doubled, with 95 reported incidents in 2018, according to the report.