Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Jewish Teachers Sue New York High School for Ignoring Antisemitic Threats from Students

UPDATE March 5, 2024: Teachers at Origins High School were victims of another troubling antisemitic act when they received a disturbing email calling for the extermination of Jewish people; more here.

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A global history teacher at a Sheepshead Bay high school is “living in fear” after repeated threats of violence, harassment, and antisemitic mobs crying “kill the Jews” in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre.

Between 40 to 50 teens rioted in Origins High School, a school with a 40% Muslim student population, a few weeks after the terror attacks, waving a Palestinian flag and chanting “Death to Israel!” and “Kill the Jews!” staffers told the New York Post.

The school currently has 445 students. While 12 are Jewish, there used to be more, but they left the school due to antisemitic bullying.

“I live in fear of going to work every day,” global history teacher Danielle Kaminsky, who is Jewish, told the Post.

“I’ve been yelled at, followed, taunted,” Kaminsky said. “I report everything to the principal. I’ve been to a school safety committee. I’ve told my union, the UFT. I’ve told my superintendent,” Brooklyn South high schools chief Michael Prayor.

Kaminsky says that they’ve done little to help.

“Nothing has made me feel safe going to school,” she said.

Staff at the school related that multiple instances of students imitating Adolf Hitler, performing the Nazi salute, and drawing swastikas have occurred in recent months. One 10th-grader told Kaminsky “I wish you were killed,” and another called her a “dirty Jew,” expressing his wish that Hitler would have “hit more Jews,” her included. On Kaminsky’s classroom door, a Palestinian flag was drawn, and a note was posted that read “die.” Inside her classroom, an Israeli flag – one of almost 200 representing different countries, was removed around three years ago.

One Jewish 10th grader says he found three swastikas scrawled on his laptop charger, and wrote a request to be transferred to a different school for his safety, in a document obtained by the Post.

“I feel like in history class I’m always targeted and it’s hard for me to take,” the student wrote.

The school’s interim acting principal, Dara Kammerman, has reportedly done nothing more than contact parents and urge them to practice what she calls “restorative justice,” according to staff at the school.

“She is perpetuating an antisemitic environment and a school of hate,” said Michael Beaudry, campus manager of the Sheepshead Bay building that houses Origins and three other schools. “The students continue these behaviors because they know there won’t be any consequences.”

The city’s Department of Education, which along with dozens of universities is under federal investigation for civil rights violations in its handling of antisemitism, told the Post that it would launch an investigation, but that “there is currently no evidence that these claims are true, but we are investigating the claims.”

One incident that was caught on surveillance camera involved students attempting to chase Kaminsky through the halls of the school, after she says one boy taunted her with more references to Hitler.

The students claimed that they were trying to have an “academic conversation,” a story that Kammerman reportedly accepted, and did not reprimand them.

But the school’s antisemitism problems did not begin on Oct. 7.

Kammerman reportedly arranged, at Kaminsky’s request, for a group of students to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, to learn about antisemitism and the Holocaust, at the behest of Kaminsky. However, when the museum sent two interns to prepare the teens for what they would experience there, they were reportedly nearly brought to tears by antisemitic comments made by the students, one saying that he would “take money” from the victims of the Holocaust, and another saying “Who cares about the Jews?” prompting the museum to cancel the visit.

In response, State Assemblyman Michael Novakhov and City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov held a press conference outside Origins High School Sunday morning.

“I am calling on the mayor, the Chancellor, the Borough President, it’s in your hands to change this…because this is a cancer that will take over the whole system, the whole city,” Novakhov said. “and it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Armenian, or any other nationality or belief, this is the beginning of the cancer. We can stop it now, and we must stop it now.”

Vernikov says that she has personally corroborated the allegations of the students and teachers.

“I spoke with the parents, I spoke to the students, to students who transferred and who are still at the school,” Vernikov said.

“This has become a culture, this behavior is tolerated and accepted, and the DOE is ok with it. This is a pattern, a systemic problem. And the case here at the school is very different, it’s not like anything I’ve seen before, here is a real toxic and hostile environment, it is impossible to teach here. For some students it is impossible to go to school here. This is a place where this teacher lives in fear every day to go to school and the parking lot to come home.

“There’s a list, an infinite list of things that are happening here every single day, and its left unchecked. The complaints fall on deaf ears, there’s been no discipline, which is why this behavior has been encouraged, nothing has been done about the safety of these two individuals and others, but the principal made complaints in retaliation because they are speaking out.”

Former Assemblyman Dov Hikind showed the student transfer form noted above at the conference. “This young man begged and pleaded to be transferred from this school because of the Jew hatred, because he was afraid, and there are many,” Hikind said.

David Dince, an attorney with the Louis Brandeis Center, a non-profit, non-partisan group, said at the press conference that his firm will “have the honor in this very difficult situation to represent Danielle and Michael going forward. We will be bringing the full weight of the law and every option possible to see that they receive equal treatment under law and that their civil rights are respected, and to press for changes in this school and throughout the city school system.”