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For Parents and Students​​​​

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These tips will help you respond to incidents of antisemitism in public and independent schools, and on college campuses.​

For K-12 parents and students

Encountering antisemitism in school can be shocking and upsetting for both students and families. You may feel overwhelmed at the idea of confronting the discrimination while protecting your child. This guide is designed to help you navigate these incidents.

How can I help my child?

When your child tells you about experiencing discrimination at school, listen, and offer support. It’s normal for you to feel upset, but it will be more reassuring to your child if you can keep emotions in check. Gather as much detail as you can and take notes for reference.

Who should I talk to?

Contact these people, in the order below, to report an incident. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, escalate the issue to the next level. Check the school’s website for contact information. If you can’t find it, call the school office or your school district to ask. You don’t have to identify yourself.

  • Your child’s teacher
  • Your school administrator (principal or vice principal): You are entitled to bypass the teacher and go directly to the principal. You may prefer this option if: 
    • you don’t feel comfortable talking to the teacher 
    • the teacher is the source of the concern 
    • the issue doesn’t involve the teacher or happened outside the class setting
  • The school district or board.
  • If you haven’t had an acceptable resolution by this point, email communityrelationscommittee@jewishcleveland.org at the Federation for further help.

What should I say?

It can feel awkward or intimidating to tell a teacher or principal about antisemitism. Still, it’s possible to approach your school in a way that best helps you find a resolution. Below, you’ll find sample language for these conversations; you can adapt them and make them your own. 

    Requesting a meeting/prep 
  • Keep your email request short and neutral in tone. Example: “Hi, Mr. Smith — Michael had an experience in class today that left him feeling uncomfortable (OR: anxious/unsafe). I’d like to meet with you to get your sense of what happened and discuss how to address it. Please let me know your availability.” 
  • An in-person meeting is ideal for best communication. Second-best is a virtual meeting; third is a phone call.
  • Plan ahead what to say and consider your goals. If you’re nervous, practice with someone else or in front of a mirror. Make and bring notes to stay on track.
  • If possible, bring another person to the meeting to act as an advocate or witness, and task that person with taking careful notes. That will allow you to participate more actively in the conversation. 
    In the meeting
  • Stay calm. This might be difficult, but it gives you a better chance of being heard. It can help ease tension if you admit at the start that this situation is upsetting to you. Remember that you’re there to get a fuller understanding of the event, and be willing to collaborate on a resolution.
  • Relay what you’ve heard from your child and explain how they (and you) feel.
  • Get their observations, ask many questions and restate what they say to confirm: “It sounds as if your view of the situation was ABC …. You mentioned that you had observed XYZ. Am I getting that right? …. I want to be sure I’m understanding this correctly…” 
  • Take notes. 
  • If the issue involves another student, try—at least at first—not to judge. Social media is full of misinformation (inaccurate) and disinformation (deliberately wrong). It’s common for kids to repost or say things without fully understanding their meaning or impact (e.g., “From the river to the sea”). 
  • Always ask for a response by a set time, and follow up if you don’t hear back. You may have several conversations at one level as you work toward a resolution. If you don’t see progress or a good-faith effort within a reasonable time, escalate the concern. 
    After the meeting 
  • Email your thanks and summarize the meeting, points of agreement, loose ends, next steps, and timeline for the expected response. This provides you with a necessary paper trail. Do this after each meeting:  “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. To help us keep track of the details, I’ve summarized our discussion in the points below. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything.”
  • Avoid getting worked up or visibly angry. (If you tear up or cry, it’s OK.)
  • Don’t issue threats or ultimatums.
  • Take notes on every conversation and keep them in one place.
  • Don’t leave without a clear understanding of what’s next, and a timeline.

Sample Situations and Suggested Responses

  • Your child finds a swastika drawn on a locker at school.

    Report this to the principal and ask to be notified when it is removed. If your child witnessed the act, include that information.

  • In class, your child’s teacher promotes an upcoming pro-Palestinian rally, blames Israel for the situation in Gaza or singles out your child in a discussion on the Israel-Hamas war. 

    Report this to the principal, even if your child didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable. If a teacher made statements that are one-sided or demonizing toward Israel or Jews, they are failing in their responsibility to create a safe learning environment.

    Acknowledge that the situation in Israelis and Palestinians is complex, but it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that all students feel safe, and this type of comment is harmful. Given that this is such a fraught topic with heightened sensitivity for many, you might suggest referring the school to an expert who is able to lead such a discussion. (Federation can provide resources for this.) 

  • A student aims an antisemitic social media post at your child.

    Report this to the principal, regardless of whether the other student is at your child’s school.  If the post directly threatens your child, report it to the police immediately.

  • Your child experiences antisemitic remarks or behavior by a student.

    Request a meeting with the teacher and/or principal. Include a brief description of the concern. Please do this even if your child wasn’t the specific target.

  • Someone has posted a poster for a pro-Palestinian rally that uses language like stop the genocide or from the river to the sea .

    Follow the same steps for reporting a problem in a classroom but start with the principal or vice principal. Also contact Federation at communityrelationscommittee@jewishcleveland.org with the details. 

  • A major school event is scheduled on high holy days.

    This almost always is unintentional and not antisemitic. Contact the teacher and/or principal to explain and ask if the event can be rescheduled. To help avoid this problem, see the next section. 

  • A teacher or administrator asks you for resources to better understand the current situation in the Middle East.

    Contact the Federation at communityrelationscommittee@jewishcleveland.org for help finding specific and correct resources. 

​For college students and parents​

With the alarming rise of antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric worldwide, students on college campuses are facing unprecedented challenges, including harassment, bullying, and even physical violence. 

We want you to know that the Jewish Federation of Cleveland is here for you, your family, and friends. If you are dealing with a challenging situation, please contact Access Jewish Cleveland at 216-292-INFO (4636) or accessjewishcleveland.org so that we may refer you to the most appropriate resources to help.

If you or another adult are having trouble coping, please call the Jewish Family Service Association at 216-292-3999. If you are concerned about a child or teen's mental health, please call Bellefaire Jewish Children's Bureau at 216-320-8502.

Here's a comprehensive toolkit to educate others, counter antisemitism, and support students in enhancing their campus environment and safeguarding their well-being.

Take Immediate Action If You Witness or Are the Target of Hate: 

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Report all antisemitic acts: Promptly report any instances of antisemitic activity on campus, including violations of university codes of conduct by students and the creation of hostile environments by faculty. Report incidents to the university, local authorities, and to the ADL for appropriate action.
  • Seek guidance: Reach out to local, trustworthy, and experienced Jewish organizations or campus groups like Hillel or Chabad if you're unsure about reporting procedures or need legal assistance. These organizations can provide support and advise you on how to speak out against hate.

Advocate for Campus Safety:

  • Advocate for the university to take proactive measures to address threats to the Jewish community on campus and ensure the safety of Jewish students, faculty, and staff.
  • Inquire about the security measures in place and advocate for additional steps to enhance campus safety.

Engage with Equity and Inclusion Departments:

  • Collaborate with university equity and inclusion departments to inquire about their efforts to address and educate about hatred targeting Jews.
  • Proactively develop relationships with group leaders to ensure support is readily available in times of need.

Utilize Local Support Organizations:

  • Stay informed by attending local events, both on and off-campus, and tap into resources like Access Jewish Cleveland. 
  • Take advantage of opportunities for leadership development and involvement in initiatives combating hate.

Build Community:

  • Remember, you're not alone in this. Connect with other Jews and Jewish organizations for support and strength. Foster a sense of community with peers both on and off-campus. 
  • Collaborate with organizations like The Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Hillel, and Chabad to engage with a diverse group of Jewish students and participate in events celebrating Jewish life.