March 19, 2021 (San Francisco, CA)

Since 2019, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, has been deeply involved in efforts to help the California Department of Education produce an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) that is free from bias and inclusive of the experiences of Jewish Americans.  Yesterday, after eight hours of hearings, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the fourth draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

It is with the support and collaboration of JIMENA’s various community partners that we implemented an effective advocacy campaign that resulted in an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that was significantly improved from the first draft. We are proud of JIMENA’s accomplishments, which include the following:

  • Produced Antisemitism and Jewish Middle Eastern Americans, the first lesson plan centering Sephardic Jewish Americans to ever be adopted into American public high school system. The first draft, written by Dr. Galia Avidar, is available for distribution nation-wide.
  • Our lesson plan includes meaningful definitions of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Facing History and Ourselves, marking the first time the California Department of Education has integrated the IHRA definition into its instructional materials for high schools.
  • Mobilized a new coalition of diverse Middle Eastern minority communities across the state of California. Advocates for Inclusive Middle Eastern Education exists to ensure that our histories and heritage is included in Ethnic Studies curriculum in California and beyond.
  • Successfully advocated for the inclusion of marginalized Jewish experiences and definitions of antisemitism within an Ethnic Studies framework – a huge milestone for Jewish representation within a academic discipline that has traditionally omitted Jewish American experiences.

While celebrating these milestones JIMENA and our Sephardic partners will continue to advocate for equal treatment of all Middle Eastern communities in Ethnic Studies frameworks and we firmly believe that our lesson, “Antisemitism and Jewish Middle Eastern Americans” should be placed thematically alongside lessons on Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry impacting communities from Southwest Asia . This position has had unwavering and broad support from a diverse coalition of major Jewish institutions including: Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stand With Us, Israeli American Council, and many others.

JIMENA will continue to work with Jewish communal organizations and our Middle Eastern partners to address the flaws in the model curriculum that was adopted and to ensure that voices of all minority groups—including Middle Eastern and North African Jews—are equally represented in Ethnic Studies classrooms across the state and beyond. We are committed to serving as a resource for Jewish communal organizations who engage with local school districts as they work to implement ethnic studies curricula in their communities to ensure that it does not result in discrimination or hostility against Jewish students.

Our work in California is clearly the beginning of a much larger effort. The Jewish community and our allies must come together in a national effort to ensure that antisemitism and BDS do not find their way into classroom curriculum across the country.

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