TUHSD combats antisemitism after online hate speech (update)

Samantha Elegant

On Thursday, Sept. 3, Instagram accounts promoting antisemitic content were brought to the attention of the Redwood High School administration. These accounts had usernames linking them to Redwood, such as @redwoodhs.soas and @rhs_anti_semi_truck_league, and requested to follow Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) students. Their main content included lists of Jewish students on a “target list.” The accounts have since been taken down, and in an email sent to the Redwood community, Principal David Sondheim confirmed that the incident is being looked into by the district and the Central Marin Police Authority. Additionally, the administration has sent follow-up emails explicitly addressing the antisemitism and organized an educational webinar open to the community.

Posting antisemitic content, these accounts targeted Jewish students.

Sondheim is appreciative of all the parents and students who have provided information about the accounts. While antisemitic behavior has occurred in the past at Redwood, Sondheim stated the consequences of these actions include suspension or expulsion given the extreme nature of this behavior.

“We work hard to make sure that Redwood is an environment that is fully supportive of all our Jewish students. We do not want to see anybody take these kinds of actions against anybody,” Sondheim said.

 Since the accounts became known, Redwood has done multiple things to combat antisemitism. On Sept. 11, Tara Taupier sent an email to the district on behalf of her and Rabbi Stacy Friedman from congregation Rodef Sholom and submitted an editorial to the Marin Independent Journal which denounced hate speech against Jewish students and other community members. The email included this statement.

“Together, we can counter the voices of hate and insure that this is a safe and nurturing community for all,” Taupier and Friedman said.

On Sept. 30, there was an interactive webinar on confronting antisemitism that partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Marin County Office of Education, the District Attorney’s office and Marin Jewish faith leaders from Congregation Rodef Sholom. Calif. Assemblyman Marc Levine was one of the speakers at the event who stressed the significance of the issue.

“It’s important to stand up for students when they are targeted by bigotry. Anti-Semitism is especially pernicious as it can go unnoticed by many who don’t recognize it when they see it,” Levine said.

The response has not been limited to administration: students have organized a club called Students Organized Against Anti-Semitism (SOAAS) that is currently open to new members. Mara Menachem, a Jewish mother of two students from High School 1327 (formerly named Sir Francis Drake High School), was initially upset about how Redwood handled the situation but now believes that there has been improvement and that much of it can be attributed to the initiative of students.

“I think what it shows you is that if you’re loud enough and you don’t let [the administration] drop it, that they will do something, but we can’t be silent. We can’t because then nothing will happen,” Menachem said.

Speaking to an online audience over Zoom, Brysk talks about what can be done about bigotry and antisemitism.

Seth Brysk, regional director for ADL, believes social media platforms, as well as the people in the community, are able to learn from events like this.

“It’s an opportunity for education. Nobody is born hating. People have to learn how to hate, and if they learn how to hate, they can be taught that [this] form of hate is wrong,” Brysk said.

Brysk believes that events like this are not isolated and instead indicate a deeper problem. Though they should never be tolerated, these incidents provide an opportunity for change.

“It’s important to speak up if you’re the target. It’s important to speak up as an ally. It’s important to learn and therefore to join together and show strength in the face of prejudice and intimidation,” Brysk said.

If you witness hateful content in the future, please report it to the relevant authorities including law enforcement, TUHSD administration and ADL so it can be properly addressed.