Antisemitic incidents continue in MCPS

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Last week, swastikas were drawn on desks at three MCPS schools. This follows another incident of antisemitic graffiti at Whitman High School.

Helina Tamiru and Rebecca Morrison

“Jews Not Welcome.” This was the message graffitied last month at Walt Whitman High School, only ten miles away from Richard Montgomery. 

“When I saw [the message] I thought it was really sad and I actually felt like [antisemitism] was coming closer to our community and saw it affect people personally,” junior Maddie Walsh, one of the heads of the Jewish Student Union at RM, said. 

However, these incidents of hate speech have not been limited to Whitman. Just one day before the graffiti at Whitman, a swastika, the symbol of the Nazism, was found painted at Montgomery Mall. 

More recently, on Sunday, the Board of Education announced that swastikas were drawn on desks at three MCPS schools. These incidents occurred at Thomas S. Wootton High School, Silver Creek Middle School and Tilden Middle School. 

In a statement, MCPS and the Board of Education condemned the hate speech and stated that disciplinary action was enforced. 

These acts of hate being so close to home are particularly striking as Montgomery County has a population that is 10% Jewish, far greater than much of the US. The RM community especially has felt the impact more directly.

There had been initiatives to address the rise in antisemitism. Only a few days before the graffiti incident, Whitman held a schoolwide lesson on antisemitism. About a month prior, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed an antisemitic pushback resolution. 

Though efforts are being made to spread awareness, sophomore Julia Fine, the other head of the Jewish Student Union, thinks there is still more to be done.

“I think a lot of people don’t really know what antisemitism is or how bad it can get if it continues to increase,” Fine said. “It’s especially important because of how much it’s increasing in the community.”

The Montgomery County Council shared Fine’s sentiment, saying they were “disgusted” after the Whitman graffiti and the incidents at the three MCPS schools. 

Not only is antisemitism rising more frequently in our community, but antisemitism is becoming more widespread across the country. The Anti Defamation League’s most recent report found that antisemitism incidents reached an all time high with a 34% increase in 2021 compared to the previous year. Incidents tracked include assaults, harassment, and vandalism targeted specifically at the Jewish community.

The current Maryland representative Jamie Raskin and MCPS superintendent Monifa B. McKnight have both spoken out about how horrified they are of the antisemitic graffiti in Bethesda. Maryland’s new governor Wes Moore did the same, tweeting “All Marylanders deserve to feel safe in their communities and in their identities.”