ROCKVILLE, Md. — Pressure continues to build on school authorities in Montgomery County to do more to combat antisemitism, after a wave of hate speech incidents hit the region.
The grandson of Holocaust survivors, and a parent of two kids, is calling on school authorities to beef up its diversity curriculum to include antisemitism awareness for children in middle and high school.
“To date, our district has not done enough to get a handle on just how pervasive the problem is," said Rockville resident Adam Zimmerman. "We must use that information to incorporate teaching and education and awareness of antisemitism, what it looks like, what it sounds like, how to prevent it, how to fight back against it. That's missing as a core component of our school curriculum. I think that needs to change.”
Zimmerman says antisemitism was left out of a district wide anti-racism audit conducted by the school system in 2022. Three Montgomery County Schools (Wootton High, Silver Creek Middle and Tilden Middle) were hit by antisemitic incidents last week, according to school officials. The incidents included swastikas being scrawled on desks and other surfaces.
Montgomery County Police and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington are now offering $5,000 rewards for information leading to suspects..
Josie Traum, a child survivor of the Holocaust who was hidden by nuns from the Nazis in Belgium during WWII, will speak to students at Tilden Middle School Wednesday about the dangers of hate speech. The school has suffered two hate-fueled incidents since April.
"I think it's great that schools are responding by having assemblies or bringing in Holocaust survivors to tell their stories," Zimmerman said. "There's tremendous value in that. But I think if that's the only response, if you feel like you've checked that box and then the next day, you don't have to do anything, I think that's where we risk getting into an area where the would be perpetrators of these events feel like they have free rein to act after things have died down again."
Traum, whose story is preserved by the Holocaust Museum, says her message to kids is that each individual has a responsibility to make a difference when faced with hate of any kind.