AMCHA Initiative Director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, issued the following statement today in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of AB 101, a bill to make ethnic studies courses a high school graduation requirement:
Having closely monitored and studied the ethnic studies scene unfold on college campuses for years, particularly in California, to say we are deeply concerned is an understatement. While certainly not all in the ethnic studies field fall into this category, there is a vocal and active faction of extremists who have long been seeking to inject their antisemitic and anti-Zionist agenda into our nation’s classrooms, and today that faction succeeded. This is a dark day for Jewish students in California and the dozens of other states that historically follow California’s lead.
The fact that no less than seven ‘guardrails’ were deemed necessary for preventing AB 101 from facilitating the widespread promotion of antisemitism is itself a stunning indictment of the bill and the dangers it poses for Jewish students and the Jewish community. And by law, those so-called guardrails are purely optics. They carry zero weight when it comes to preventing school districts from bringing the rejected and blatantly antisemitic original ESMC curriculum or its far worse Liberated cousin into the classroom.
Making matters significantly worse, California’s teachers’ unions and public universities’ ethnic studies departments proudly support those overtly antisemitic curricula. Both the original ESMC draft and Liberated’s curriculum are endorsed by California’s two largest teachers’ unions and ethnic studies departments and faculty on Cal State and University of California campuses.
This bill could and should have been stopped at the legislative level and must not be forced on the Jewish community to fight in each of California’s 1,300 school districts. We surely hope that those who guaranteed the guardrails would prevent antisemitic curricula from seeping into our state’s high schools stand ready to fulfill their commitment since this enormous responsibility ought to fall squarely on their shoulders, not on parents and students.
AMCHA has led several efforts to warn Newsom about the dire harms of the bill and urge him to veto it. In the past couple of weeks, hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, dozens of religious, civil rights, and education organizations, thousands of Californians, and hundreds of California high school students and parents have urged Newsom to veto the bill. And the LA Times editorialized against AB 101, urging a veto, and citing the same concerns raised by the petitioners.