KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Jewish students targeted with swastikas, ‘gas the Jews’ chants

Nov 12, 2023, 7:25 PM | Updated: 7:31 pm

Image: Ayelet Winer, a mother with three kids in the Bellevue School District, speaks at a school b...

Ayelet Winer, a mother with three kids in the Bellevue School District, speaks at a school board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ayelet Winer and The Jason Rantz Show)

(Photo courtesy of Ayelet Winer and The Jason Rantz Show)

Students in the Bellevue School District are regularly targeted with anti-Semitic hate while at school, according to parents.

Some incidents involve swastikas displayed toward Jewish children. In other instances, Jewish children are hearing taunts like “Gas the Jews.” It has gotten so bad that some kids have had to stay home from school while others have stopped wear Star of David necklaces, scared they will targeted.

Making the situation more untenable is the Bellevue School District removed school resource officers from campuses after demands from organizations like Black Lives Matter. Now, the Bellevue Police Department warns it’s not able to be as involved in protecting Jewish students as it otherwise could be.

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Jewish students being terrorized

While hundreds gathered to support Israel in Bellevue over the weekend, many in the crowd expressed worry about an uptick of anti-Semitism directed at their young children.

Days earlier, parents complained to the Bellevue school board that their children have been repeatedly bullied, called derogatory names, and flashed Nazi symbols by classmates. Middle schools like Tillicum and Highland have been specifically mentioned as having concerning anti-Semitic incidents.

“I’m here today because I’m concerned about the safety of my two school children because they’re current students in the elementary school,” said Bellevue parent Illan Lanz at the meeting.

Lanz told the board that he feared for his family and his own safety due to “multiple incidents of anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment across multiple schools and age groups.” He demanded the district ensure anti-discrimination policies be enforced against students and district staff.

‘Gas the Jews’

Ayelet Winer, a mother with three kids in the district, also spoke. She said her children “have been subject to repeated discriminatory harassment” since Oct. 7.

“It reached the point where my kids were too afraid to go to school due to this hostile environment and had to stay home,” Winer said. She noted that much of the harassment with “violent messaging” came during a pro-Hamas rally where her kids heard the chants, “Gas the Jews” and “From the river, to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

After reaching out to her kids’ school “multiple times, urging the to use these incidents as opportunity to educate the students on how to respect each other, or care for each other.” She said her concerns weren’t addressed until she “had to file a formal complaint with the district.”

“It raises the question, why is anti-Semitism being treated differently than other forms of discrimination?” she asked.

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Jewish students are being targeted

Winer, an Israeli-American, joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to better detail the hate her three children have faced in the district. She has two kids in middle school and one in elementary.

Winer said that since Oct. 7, her kids have been approached by classmates “many, many times with calls to ‘Free Palestine,’ which itself might not sound as something that is anti-Semitic, but when it’s being shouted in my kid’s face and in a harassing way, it is.”

She understands that some of the hate is coming from her kids’ classmates who don’t under the issues they’re discussing, but wonders why the school isn’t doing more to intervene.

“In our school, we had Swastikas, like the Nazis symbols, drawn in school (note)books,” Winer explained. “So, that’s alarming. The teachers know that is something that is not allowed.”

She says some of the classmates are hearing messages like, “Gas the Jews” from the supposedly pro-Palestinian rallies and then repeated in school. Her kids were also told, “Go to Israel and die there!” and “Bomb Israel!”

“My kids don’t need to deal with such language. They don’t need to be in a situation where they need to defend who they are, where they come from, defend Israel,” she said.

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Jewish kids are resilient

Though young, Winer’s kids are resilient — her son, in particular.

“My son is a very brave kid. He’s like, ‘I’m not afraid of anyone.’ But I did tell him that I want him to take off his Star of David (necklace) … I don’t want him to be a target.”

She said her daughter was initially scared to go to class. She heard classmates trying to divide kids into groups based on who they support, Israel or Palestinians in Gaza.

“When my son’s name came up as someone that supports Israel, there was a lot of bad words happening there. And my daughter was afraid that they will turn to her and ask her who do you support? Because then what does she say? She doesn’t want to face all these kids alone,” Winer said.

As a result of this incident, Winer kept her kids home from a school the next day. She and some other Jewish families say they then met with the principal to ask for help.

Bellevue PD play smaller role now

With the hateful incidents seemingly surging, the Bellevue Police Department cannot play as large as a role as they’d like. And they’re unable to track any trends to see what kind of surge the Jewish students are experiencing.

In 2020, the district opted to remove school resource officers from schools. Officer Seth Tyler, the acting-spokesperson for the Bellevue PD, said this “has limited our officers’ ability to have daily direct interactions with teachers and students in this way.”

Officer Tyler says they’re not receiving 911 calls from schools to report hate incidents. That’s the only way they could track the data around hate incidents.

But, as Winer points out, some schools are not recording the incidents as anti-Semitic.

A simple ask

Winer says she’s not even asking for the district to pick a side in the conflict. She just wants the district to acknowledge the anti-Semitism and address it with teachable moments.

But she says it’s become clear that some in the district don’t even understand what is or is not anti-Semitic. She argues that “when it comes to Jewish and Israeli kids, they are not sure how to react.”

While she’s not certain she’s merely dealing with educators who are radicals who support the anti-Israel cause, Winer says she’s giving them all the benefit of the doubt. But she worries that teaching kids through an “oppressor/oppressed” lens, “that’s a very biased way to teach the kids.”

Winer says it’s particularly heartbreaking that one student in the district has family that survived the terrorist attack. She is concerned that the language will “immediately trigger trauma of her family.”

“I really think that those kids probably don’t even understand what it means or you know, what’s the impact of their actions? And I’m not blaming them. But what I do want is the educational system to know how to handle these situations,” she says.

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Bellevue School District isn’t taking this seriously

Based on the concern from parents, some who did not want to speak to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH on the record for fear of retribution, the district is not taking concerns over anti-Semitism seriously enough.

“To me, I think the fact that there is no formal policy on how to react to anti-Semitic incidents, that’s a problem because we are also a minority in the school,” Winer explained.

A district spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment by publication. In a statement to KIRO 7, the district would not confirm specific bullying incidents, but said that they’re “looking into incidents as it relates to parent concerns for safety” and that “protocols are being enforced.”

But it seems hard to believe that if parental concerns over treatment of black or LGBT students was at issue, this would be treated the same way.

“In the same way that are protecting the black community or the LGBTQ community, there needs to be a policy for protecting the Jewish people because at the moment, we are afraid for our safety. I’m afraid for my kids safety,” Winer said.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow him on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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