The state’s peak Jewish body says anti-Semitic incidents in Sydney schools have almost doubled in the past 12 months with some students reporting they’ve been told they “should have died in gas chambers.”

By Danielle Le Messurier
The Daily Telegraph

October 28, 2019

Three students at an exclusive Sydney private college, who posed for photos with their arms in the shape of a swastika before posting it ­online with the caption “burn the Jews’’, is one incident in a worrying increase of anti-­Semitic behaviour in schools.

Such incidents have almost doubled over the past 12 months, according to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

The board’s chief executive Vic Alhadeff said young Jewish students are being told by classmates they “should have died in the gas chambers”.

Mr Alhadeff, who used to hear of racial abuse about once a month, says he now gets calls approximately once a fortnight in relation to incidents at NSW schools, tertiary education institutions and the workplace.

“It’s extremely concerning and there’s a great deal of copycat behaviour occurring,” Mr Alhadeff said.

“When I’ve raised this with schools, the majority of school authorities have been as appalled as we are by these incidents and keen to address the issues in a constructive way.”

It is not just young males who are engaging in the ­behaviour — girls and even primary school children are also getting swept up in the ­rising tide of anti-Semitism.

One of the most shocking incidents, which Mr Alhadeff was asked to help resolve, involved three Year 11 students at a leading private girls’ school in Sydney who posed for a photo with their arms in the shape of a swastika.

Mr Alhadeff said they posted the picture on social media — which started out as a “joke” — with comments that read “Gas the Jews, burn the Jews, we hate Jews”.

“I brought in some photographs from the Holocaust of Jewish kids going about their business … and I put it to (the girls), ‘So is this now who you’re calling for to be gassed and burnt?’,” Mr Alhadeff said.

“Two of the three were in tears and were very clearly mortified at what they had been part of.”

The students were suspended and ordered to do 30 hours of community service, with 15 hours to be served among Sydney’s Jewish ­community.

Mr Alhadeff said there was another incident around the same time at a public high school in Western Sydney, where a Year 7 student was told they “should have died in the gas chambers”.

And just two months ago, a Year 10 student at one of Sydney’s largest schools was at a modern history lesson when a classmate shouted: “The Jews deserved it anyway.”

Mr Alhadeff said he was also aware of two primary school incidents in recent months where Jewish students had been racially abused.

A tally of anti-Semitic incidents by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry shows numbers have soared in NSW from 99 incidents in 2016-17 to 166 over the same period last year.

A NSW Department of Education spokeswoman said such behaviour “is not tolerated in NSW schools”.