School bullying: a Jewish community meeting with the NSW Minister of Education

July 31, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has met with representatives of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies and The Executive Council of Australian Jewry to discuss combatting bullying and prejudice when it happens in all schools in NSW.

Ben Ezzes (Educator), Natalie Ward MLC (Chair, NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel), Peter Wertheim (co-CEO, ECAJ), Vic Alhadeff (CEO, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies), Sarah Mitchell MP (NSW Minister for Education), Murray Norman (Christian SRE)

In 1990, the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia concluded racial vilification creates “adverse effects on the quality of life and well-being of individuals or groups who have been targeted because of their race”

The ECAJ reports “the shocking racist bullying of Jewish children at public schools in Victoria last year, which included a serious assault, and similar but less well-publicised incidents in public and private schools in NSW, demonstrate the truth of that conclusion and highlight also the destructive nexus between racist attitudes and language, and acts of violence”.

The Minister met with ECAJ’s co-CEO Peter Wertheim and Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

Vic Alhadeff told J-Wire: “The importance of inserting anti-prejudice education into various points of the existing curriculum content cannot be over-stated.

We are witnessing an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents at both primary and high school levels, and it is imperative for the cohesion of our society and even more specifically for the well-being of succeeding generations to introduce a focus on respect for, and de-stigmatisation of, difference, of intercultural respect, of the need to identify and repudiate bigotry in its specific forms.

“We applaud the ready willingness of Minister Mitchell to engage with this issue and we look forward to a real outcome which will be to the benefit of all.”

Peter Wertheim said: “Holocaust education is, of course, an essential part of education against racism. However, by the time students get to year 9 or 10 and study the Holocaust in history, they are pretty much formed in their character and opinions, and it might be too late. We need to do more and start much younger, as incidents of racist bullying have occurred even in primary school”.

There is scope within the existing content of curricula across the disciplines to incorporate techniques of critical thinking and education against prejudice generally, but the message will be lost unless anti-Jewish and other common forms of prejudice are specifically addressed.

Generic human rights and citizenship education are not sufficient. These positive values are lost unless students from a young age are also equipped to resist the myriad negative influences of racism they encounter online, in social media and elsewhere.”

Wertheim added that professional development for teachers had to be strengthened.

Stating that the organisation is reaching out to other affected communities he added: ”

“Ultimately this should be a national effort, but we have to start somewhere,” he said. “We commend the NSW Minister for Education for her understanding of the problem and for agreeing to assist us to develop and refine these ideas by putting us in touch with the relevant curriculum authorities”.

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