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Guest Opinion

Central Bucks failed to support its Jewish students


I am a proud American who fully embraces the United States values, especially freedom of speech. I am also a refugee born and raised in Soviet Kazakhstan and later Uzbekistan.

I lived among a Muslim population, surrounded by its faith and culture, and have a deep appreciation for diversity. I am also a grandchild of Holocaust survivors.

As a constant reminder of my Jewish ethnicity, my Soviet Union passport listed my nationality as “Jew.” Being Jewish is not simply one’s religion, but an ethnicity. In fact, Jews are an ethnic minority worldwide.

Some of us practice Judaism, some chose other religions, some are secular. Never could I have imagined that hate would find me here, in the land of the free.

As U.S. college campuses erupted with blatant antisemitism, I hoped it wouldn’t reach our quiet suburban schools.

Yet here we are experiencing it firsthand. I watched in horror as Central Bucks West’s administration allowed the spread of antisemitic propaganda by one of its teachers, Mr. Abdelwahab, and student members of the Muslim Student Association club (“Central Bucks facing investigation of antisemitism charges,” May 2).

I went to the public board meeting to express my concerns with administration’s disregard for policy violations. I described the hostile school environment it created and asked the board to do its job.

I was not there to criticize this teacher’s character, work ethic, nor religion. None of the parents shared those thoughts or words, yet Dr. Mariam Mahmud (board’s vice president) read a prepared statement at the meeting claiming that some Jewish parents were on a “witch hunt” and committing “Islamophobic attacks against a minority teacher.” Her preconceived notions clouded her judgment, her words are a classic case of victim blaming. It was reprehensible.

Jews lived in diaspora for thousands of years. Indigeneity of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is indisputable. So is its right and obligation to defend its people from unprovoked genocidal attacks by terrorists.

We are witnessing a deliberate twisting of facts and history to perpetuate antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.

Per Dr. Mahmud, Mr. Abdelwahab “creates a safe space for students of all backgrounds and interests.” But his social media posts tell us otherwise. Our concerns weren’t raised because the teacher is Muslim, but because he chooses to post antisemitic tropes and propaganda while knowing his students follow his social media and often replicate the same misguided rhetoric on MSA’s club account.

Their one-sided focus on the suffering of Gazans, is very telling; they don’t appear at all concerned with the suffering of any other population, including millions of Muslims who are persecuted in Yemen, Syria, Pakistan or China, not to mention 130+ hostages still held by Hamas terrorists. Why?

Even after the board meeting, our calls for swift and direct actions went unanswered and this inaction seemed to embolden the teacher and the club, culminating in a post of a prayer for G-d to “deal with the usurping Jews and the treacherous Zionists” on club’s Instagram. These posts should be seen exactly for what they are, incitement of Jew hatred. History taught us that this rhetoric goes hand-in-hand with violence.

Many of these posts were brought to the attention of the school district’s administration. Where was the resounding condemnation of this targeted hatred?

We highlighted the dangers that stem from the spread of anti-Jewish rhetoric. Where was the board’s commitment to enforce its policies and address violations with meaningful disciplinary actions? At a time of unprecedented rise in antisemitism and when Jewish students needed support and protection most, this board stayed silent.

The belated board statement, as expected, was tone-deaf. It failed to strongly condemn the only real issue at hand: antisemitism. By lumping it in with an alleged Islamophobia and “all other forms of hate,” it undermined the validity of our concerns, lacked the emphasis it deserved, and rendered the message insincere.

While all hate should generally be condemned, this is not the time for equivocal statements nor is this “action” enough.

For our children to feel safe and welcomed in the schools we must see results, we must see policies strictly enforced, and there must be consequences.

Inna Pyatetsky is a parent in the Central Bucks School District.

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