Rally held outside TDSB office as Jewish community calls on educators to condemn anti-Semitism

By James Mackin and Lucas Casaletto

A rally was held on Sunday outside the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) head office in North York as members of the Jewish community demanded that the board stand against anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Corey Margolese, the organizer of Sunday’s afternoon rally, tells CityNews this stemmed from an incident at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. Margolese says there was a walkout during which some students held signs that said “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” including a phrase some members of the Jewish community found anti-Semitic.

“The TDSB had the opportunity to chastise teachers who were influencing and complimenting students on the use of these phrases and standing up in protest,” Margolese said.

Instead of condemning the phrase, Margolese says the school board released a statement saying people would disagree that the term is anti-Semitic, which led to Sunday’s rally at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue.

Roughly 60 people attended, and Rabbi Margolese says they intend to hold more rallies.

“It was done in support of Jewish workers and their families,” he says. “It’s very clear that those who know what these things mean know that there is no other way to take them other than in an anti-Semitic manner. The board had an opportunity to correct behaviour of teachers acting inappropriately, and they didn’t take it.”

In a statement to CityNews, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says these phrases “mean different things to different people because of the diversity of lived experiences.”

“The TDSB is committed to eliminating all forms of racism, oppression and hate. To do this, we must focus on the education of our students,” Bird said in an email.

“Recent events locally and globally have intensified discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian geopolitical conflict. We will remain focused on ensuring students with different lived experiences feel safe, valued and understood in our classrooms. We have more work to do, and that’s why additional resources are being developed to teach students critical thinking skills so they can understand complex issues from many different perspectives.”

Bird says the board acknowledges and understands that “language and context matter.”

“Members of the Jewish community have experienced these phrases as anti-Semitic, calling for the eradication of Israel, and hateful. Some Palestinians use these phrases as a statement of their human and land rights as people,” Bird said.

The TDSB shared with employees that it plans on appointing an “internal staff writing team” for up to seven months to support, complement, and augment resources development. Bird says they’ll offer exclusive, professional learning on anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate — in addition to other forms of discrimination. The board will also seek out guidance from external bodies, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“We can and must intervene and educate where and when racism and hate enter our schools.”

Rabbi Margolese says re-education is vital in ensuring that Jewish students feel safe in the classroom.

“I think that teachers who recognize this — especially teachers — who recognize that these acts are anti-Semitic in nature and who refuse to correct their behaviours, I think those teachers need to face some real consequences,” he says.

“Without consequences and without some sort of enforcement, after attempting to provide educational correction of behaviours, there absolutely needs to be those consequences because otherwise, we’re just going to see repetitions of this.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today