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October 10, 2021 10:57 am
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Jewish Advocacy Group Criticizes California Governor Signing Bill Requiring Ethnic Studies in High School

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to the media, at a voting center in Sacramento, California, March 3, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Gabriela Bhaskar / File.

A Jewish advocacy group on Friday strongly condemned California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of a law making the state the first to require an ethnic studies course for high school students.

Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101) had been opposed by some Jewish groups, who argued that it would allow schools to adopt previously proposed curricula that included antisemitic and anti-Israel material.

After its September passage in the state’s legislature, the bill was welcomed by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus for “guardrail” amendments that would prevent those materials from being taught.

AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin argued Friday that those changes were insufficient.

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“To say we are deeply concerned is an understatement,” she said. “While certainly not all in the ethnic studies field fall into this category, there is a vocal and active faction of extremists who have long been seeking to inject their antisemitic and anti-Zionist agenda into our nation’s classrooms, and today that faction succeeded.”

Rossman-Benjamin asserted, “The fact that no less than seven ‘guardrails’ were deemed necessary for preventing AB 101 from facilitating the widespread promotion of antisemitism is itself a stunning indictment of the bill and the dangers it poses for Jewish students and the Jewish community.”

“This is a dark day for Jewish students in California and the dozens of other states that historically follow California’s lead,” she said.

The courses must be offered to California high school students beginning in the 2025-26 school year.

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