November 18, 2021
Dear Ms. Russell-Rawlins and Mr. Alexander Brown,
We are writing to you on behalf of thousands of educators and community members who are livid, terrified, and incredibly concerned about recent events within the TDSB, where Israeli Canadians, Jews, and those who support Israel have once again been demonized, targeted, and victimized.
Educators Against Antisemitism (EAA) is an active and inclusive group representing thousands of school staff in Ontario, many of whom are in the TDSB. Parents Against Antisemitism (PAA) is another active and inclusive group representing thousands of parents, mostly of students within the TDSB. In the spring of 2021, we wrote to the TDSB and following that, presented data to TDSB Trustees and other Senior Staff concerning how TDSB Jewish staff consistently feel unsafe in their workplace solely for the reason that they are Jewish. Over the past 6 months, the negative physical, emotional, and mental effects that the TDSB has placed on Jewish staff is unprecedented and it seems to be getting worse. We are not heard, seen, nor validated. It has been an utterly devastating experience --- one which we never dreamed we would have to experience in 2021. Having reasonable grounds for TDSB staff to hide their identity is unacceptable and goes against our Human Rights. We will fight for our right to be treated the same as our colleagues. We refuse to consider the possibility that Jews don’t belong in public education.
There appears to be a recent pattern to ignore antisemitism within the school board, or, at the very least, to stand idly by thus allowing its existence.
Last Spring, a TDSB staff person sent out emails to thousands of other staff that were hateful towards the state of Israel and its supporters. Jews felt threatened by that action and even more so when these emails provided links to information from an organization defined by Public Safety Canada as a terrorist group. The staff member who sent out that email still works for the TDSB and that seems to have emboldened others, with similar beliefs, to perpetuate his words and actions, in smaller ways, throughout the system. Combine this with the withdrawal of valuable educational resources about antisemitism from TDSB sites, Jewish educators, Israeli educators, and the entire Jewish community of our city feel unprotected, exposed, vulnerable.
In September and October, two different staff members were invited to speak to Principals and other leaders at the TDSB, both making disparaging, hateful, and untrue slanderous statements against Jews and Israel. Neither were disciplined for their actions. Throughout the Fall of 2021 there hase been vandalism on many school properties featuring anti-semitic comments and/or symbols, distributed on social media forums and heard in public spaces. Last week, there was a school-wide walk-out, led by a TDSB educator, where students and staff were encouraged to
promote segregation and hate. Which grade 8 students want to apply to THAT high school in January? No Jewish students want to go there….and likely any Jews there will transfer out.
This is outrageous.
This isn’t only about students using unacceptable language --- there are staff people doing the same thing. And by not publicly explaining the scope of what is happening, nor what the Board is doing about it, it appears that the TDSB is not taking a stance against anti-semitism. It appears that the TDSB is in direct opposition to the directives of the Ministry of Education in its focu on anti-hate education.
The TDSB must publicly call out what is happening within the city, and be transparent about the follow up. There have been too many incidents that when combined, point to a disturbing and dangerous trend within Canada’s largest school board.
The TDSB must move ahead immediately with the secondment of a staff member from CIJA (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) that they committed to doing a few months ago.
We are NOT looking for placating letters from your office.
We are looking for actions.
Educators Against Antisemitism
Parents Against Antisemitism
Ottawa Supports Jewish Children
Jewish Educators Affinity Group
Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights
End Jew Hatred Canada
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation (CAEF)
Associate Director Leadership, Learning and School Improvement (Interim), TDSB
Associate Director Equity, Well-Being and School Improvement (Acting), TDSB
Associate Director Business Operations and Service Excellence (Interim), TDSB
Executive Officer, Government, Public and Community Relations, TDSB
Senior Manager, Governance and Board Services, TDSB
Executive Superintendent, Human Rights and Indigenous Education, TDSB
System Superintendent, Continuing Education / Partnership / Heritage Months / International Languages & African Heritage (Interim), TDSB
System Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Oppression and Early Years