AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin testified on Wednesday before the California Senate Education Committee against AB 101, a bill mandating an ethnic studies high school graduation requirement that allows school districts to adopt any ethnic studies curriculum, including the initial overtly antisemitic first draft of the state-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) roundly rejected by all Jewish communal organizations, the Legislative Jewish Caucus, Governor Newsom, and the State Board of Education.
Rossman-Benjamin exposes in her testimony compelling evidence that if AB 101 becomes law, most school districts in the state will adopt some version of the overtly anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist first draft of the state-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that was rejected by the State Board of Education in 2019, and she points out that some school districts, such as Hayward Unified, have already committed to adopting and implementing a version of the antisemitic draft and others are poised to follow suit. Here are excerpts from her testimony:
I am representing 60 organizations and thousands of members and supporters of the California Jewish community who are deeply concerned about AB 101, and the enormously harmful impact we believe it will have on Jewish students if it becomes law.
Although the bill recommends that school districts adopt the SBE-approved model curriculum as the basis for the required courses, it also allows for the use of any curriculum approved by a school district, even the rejected, the overtly antisemitic and anti-Zionist first draft that outraged the Jewish community, the Legislative Jewish Caucus and the Governor.
However, our organizations have provided you with compelling evidence that the rejected first draft — or an even more extreme version — will likely be adopted and implemented by most school districts if the bill becomes law.
The original authors of that first draft have been carrying out a successful campaign to promote their curriculum – including its anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist lessons — throughout the state. They’ve garnered support from the two biggest teachers unions, as well as from the state’s higher education ethnic studies community. They’ve also been vigorously lobbying individual school districts and some, such as Hayward Unified, have already adopted it. If AB 101 becomes law, we believe most school districts will follow suit.
Especially now, as violence in the Middle East is spilling over into vicious attacks on Jews all over the world, including in California, we believe AB 101 directly threatens the safety and well-being of Jewish students in our state, and we urge you to vote NO on this bill.
Earlier this spring, Rossman-Benjamin testified before the California Assembly Education Committee, and AMCHA submitted a formal and comprehensive position letter to the Committee. The letter details how and why any curriculum rooted in Critical Ethnic Studies can easily become a vehicle for inciting division and hate, including antisemitism since the discipline portrays Jewish Americans as racially privileged oppressors and Israel as a white supremacist apartheid state.
Last year AMCHA successfully urged Governor Newsom to veto AB 331, the precursor of AB 101, and Rossman-Benjamin was the first to expose how the discipline of Critical Ethnic Studies is deeply antisemitic and anti-Zionist. AMCHA has led several coalition efforts to educate officials about the dangers of a curriculum based on Critical Ethnic Studies.