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August 2, 2020 7:41 pm

Group Representing Jews From Middle East and North Africa Slams California’s Controversial Proposed Ethnic Studies Curriculum

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The flag of California. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A group representing Jews from the Middle East and North Africa criticized California’s new proposed ethnic studies curriculum for failing to discuss antisemitism and pushing a narrative that portrays the Middle East and North Africa as defined by its Arab population.

The California Department of Education released its recommended Draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum on Friday, which had already been revised after strong criticism from numerous organizations, including Jewish ones.

Sarah Levin, the director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) — which is acting in concert with Advocates for Inclusive Middle Eastern Education, representing Californians with roots in the Middle East and North Africa — strongly criticized the new curriculum, saying it ignores and “erases” the experiences of MENA Jews.

“JIMENA is part of a coalition of diverse Middle Eastern and North African communities, which strongly supports a high-quality ethnic studies curriculum that accurately reflects the demographics of our state,” Levin said.

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“While the draft released today is an improvement over past versions, some of the supplemental materials that have been included are deeply problematic and exclusionary,” she continued. “These supplemental materials ignore the stories of all our coalition members — who together represent an estimated 60% of Californians who hail from the Middle East and North Africa — while portraying the Arab-American experience as a monolith to represent the region.”

Levin added, “The materials fail to adequately discuss antisemitism — and characterize American Jews only in the context of how some have secured White privilege, which is misleading and erases the experience of a significant part of our community, including Middle Eastern and North African Jews, as well as of other Jews of Color.”

The curriculum, which is seen as biased heavily toward the radical left, has met with strong opposition from Jewish and pro-Israel groups, with some calling it antisemitic.

Last year, the California state legislature’s Jewish Caucus charged that the proposed curriculum “erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss antisemitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism, and would institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools.”

Last month, 88 Jewish and pro-Israel groups issued an open letter criticizing the curriculum, with AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, saying, “It is important to point out that this is so much larger than just a Jewish issue, and merely addressing that piece of this controversial curriculum does not fix the larger problem of how injecting politics into an educational curriculum will hurt all students.”

“The curriculum drafters saw an opportunity here to advance their own fringe political beliefs and they exploited it, at the expense of our kids,” she said.

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