Remember when decent people responded to anti-Semitic bile with righteous indignation?
Baltimore’s Park School was founded in 1912 by Jewish civic leaders because Jewish kids faced admission quotas at other private schools.
Park Schools is now a “non-sectarian, independent, gender-inclusive” institution “rooted” in the progressive philosophy of John Dewey.
None of this is good enough for an anonymous pressure group that identifies itself with Black Lives Matter. According to a piece in the Free Beacon, a group calling itself the Black at Park Organizing Collective, which identifies itself with Black Lives Matter, has sent the school a letter charging “wealth hoarding” and “tolerance of Zionism.”
“Wealth hoarding” is redolent of one of the ugliest stereotypes of historical anti-Semitism, and what is wrong with “tolerating” different ideas? It was a vicious attack. Good men and women should shudder. The Free Beacon reports:
The Collective, which claims to be composed of “recent and distant alumni,” accused the school of promoting “anti-blackness” and “anti-black violence.” It seeks radical changes to the school’s curriculum, admissions, and hiring. The school, they claim, is home to “white supremacist structures and environments of learning, teaching, and community-making,” and Park “has established this culture of anti-blackness as normal and permissible.” The administration, they wrote, must “atone for the deep and painful anti-black violence our black peers have experienced.”
The language in the letter highlights the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Black Lives Matter activism. Across the country, protesters associated with the movement have defaced Jewish institutions, demanded that American Jews denounce Israel, and embraced anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has condemned American Jews for years.
Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, spiritual leader for more than 40 years at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh synagogue, expressed concern about the Collective’s rhetoric.
“There are a lot of code words here that have been associated with anti-Semitic tropes,” Wohlberg told the Washington Free Beacon. “But I don’t like calling people anti-Semitic unless I know them and know that to be true. However, [with] those tropes of ‘parasites’ and ‘wealth hoarding,’ combined with ‘tolerance of Zionism,’ you have to question the motives of these people.”
It does make me nervous to write about any group that is anonymous. We’ve had hate crime hoaxes in the last few years, but the school seems to know the identities of the letter writers.
And it must be said: Rabbi Wohlberg, you don’t have to decode this message. It is all up front and it is vile. So, what happened? The teachers, administrators, board, parents and kids rose up with one accord and excoriated this kind of anti-Semitism. Right? Well, no:
Park administrators declined to address the Collective’s use of anti-Semitic language, but officials told the Free Beacon the school is working with the group to implement a series of reforms, including changes to its “diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”
Peter Hilsee, a spokesman for the Park School, told the Free Beacon administrators are “aware of the letter” and are speaking with its authors.
“It would not be appropriate to provide details about our correspondence,” Hilsee said. “I can say that our school is now involved in a robust process of reshaping our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and we are steadfastly committed to confronting systemic and institutionalized racism within our walls and in our broader community.”
Hilsee did not respond to a follow-up email from the Free Beacon asking if the school is concerned about the Collective’s use of anti-Semitic tropes. The Black at Park Organizing Collective did not respond to a request for comment.
This craven reaction is typical. I don’t know whether it is rooted in fear (I suspect much of it has to be) or just lack of conviction about our institutions.