Reflections on the 2022-23 School Year

An academic year marked by unprecedented challenges for Jewish students, families, and employees saw the JCRC work tirelessly to support victims of school-based antisemitism and their school communities. We vigorously advocated for long-term changes to district policies and procedures, curricula and instruction that will address some of the root causes of this most ancient and resilient hatred.
On a more grassroots scale, the JCRC’s Student to Student peer anti-bias program and Holocaust Speakers’ Bureau reached a record number of more than 12,500 young adults, educators and other community members this year. Each presentation opened minds, forged greater mutual respect and built empathy between people of diverse backgrounds.

There is no magic wand to remedy the alarming escalation of antisemitic incidents our region has experienced over the last year. The JCRC’s professional staff works relentlessly to hold school officials accountable and achieve both immediate and long-term results in the 10 public school districts and dozens of private schools throughout our region. Our agency is recognized and respected as both a tough critic when warranted and as a trusted community partner with top-notch expertise and nuanced judgement. In May, we were honored to receive the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to Public Education. 
We are grateful to the many parents, educators, administrators and elected officials with whom we have partnered this year. Most of all, we celebrate our students -- who, during the most difficult moments, courageously spoke truth to power, proudly self-advocated as Jewish teens and demonstrated enormous resilience. The summer break provides everyone with a much-deserved respite, but we know there is much work left to do when classes resume. We look forward to your continued support and partnership in that effort. 

A summary of the JCRC’s work during the 2022-23 school year:

We Responded to a Spate of School-Based Antisemitic Incidents  

  • JCRC staff personally responded to a record 64 school-based incidents, a fourfold increase from the previous academic year. These incidents occurred in Montgomery, Fairfax, Arlington, and Loudoun counties, as well as in the City of Alexandria and the District of Columbia.
  • For the first time, we responded to several incidents at the elementary school level, primarily involving 5th grade students.
  • Response strategies included working directly with principals on immediate mitigation; advocating with system administrators and elected officials when school staff were unresponsive; meeting with and counseling impacted students and parents; and bringing Holocaust speakers and Student to Student peer educators to schools. 


We Brought Superintendents to our Communities to Hear Directly from Families

  • During the height of antisemitic incidents, the JCRC hosted four town hall meetings with the school superintendents of Montgomery and Fairfax counties, which were collectively attended by more than 700 people.
  • These forums empowered students to share ongoing or unaddressed episodes of antisemitic harassment directly with their system leaders. It also let Jewish parents voice their frustration and pain, while demanding that stronger measures be taken to address this problem.


We Trained Teachers and Administrators on Antisemitism, Judaism and Zionism

  • Together with our partners at the ADL, the JCRC trained close to 400 teachers, equity specialists and administrators in four public school districts.
  • In August, we will provide training for the entire educator and paraeducator faculty of the Whitman High School cluster in Montgomery County.


We Empowered Jewish Students to Speak Their Truth and Be Active Participants in Addressing Antisemitism

  • Our Student to Student peer anti-bias program continued to expand. This year, we trained more than 90 students, who collectively presented to and dialogued with over 1,000 teens and educators throughout the region.
  • We provided guidance to and support for Jewish students personally impacted by antisemitic incidents, and to student leaders of Jewish Student Unions and Jewish Culture Clubs.


We Expanded our Holocaust Speakers Bureau to Meet Growing Demand

  • We brought survivors, their children and grandchildren to talk with nearly 10,000 students, educators and other adults in our region.
  • Through our innovative “Maggid: Generations of the Shoah” initiative, we trained a new cohort of second-generation survivors to share their parents’ Shoah narratives.


We Responded to Synagogues’ Call for Assistance in Empowering Children to Deal with Antisemitism

  • We created programming mid-year to respond to numerous requests from synagogues to talk with their students about the flood of high-profile antisemitic incidents, both locally and nationally.
  • We facilitated sessions with more than 200 students at five synagogues, and we are now working to expand our capacity and curricular offerings for congregational religious schools.


We Monitored and Provided Input on Curriculum Changes and Connected School Districts to Expert Resources 

  • Together with the Institute for Curriculum Resources, we submitted extensive comments to proposed social studies curricula in Virginia and in the District of Columbia, to ensure that Judaism, Jewish history, the Holocaust and Israel are covered meaningfully and properly.
  • We worked with the other Virginia JCRCs to advocate and submit testimony to the Commonwealth’s Board of Education on how proposed curriculum revisions would impact the Jewish community and other minority populations.


We Represented the Jewish Community on Key Stakeholder Committees

  • In Fairfax County, JCRC Associate Director Guila Franklin Siegel served on the Superintendent’s Strategic Plan Core Planning Group.

  • Also in Fairfax, JCRC Education Programs and Services Director Sara Winkelman served on the FCPS Calendar Committee and the FCPS Equity Policy Steering Committee.

  • In Loudoun County, Erika Harris of Sha’are Shalom continues to represent the Jewish community on LCPS’ Equity Committee.
  • In Montgomery County, JCRC Director of Intergroup Relations Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky continues to represent the Jewish community on MCPS’ Faith Leaders’ Advisory Group and on the Anti-Racist Audit Steering Committee.