Why JFS needs anti-racist education

The organisers of a petition calling for JFS to teach more about the experiences of black people say they were inspired by the Jewish values they learned at the school

June 09, 2020 12:42

We started the open letter because we only received any anti-racism education once leaving JFS and starting university degrees. Testimonies collected as part of the open letter confirm that hundreds of former students also share this experience and that current students are lacking this education.

Jewish institutions across the community are engaging with the Black Lives Matter Movement and JFS should be part of this engagement too. 

We do not feel that our experience at JFS provided us with either a well-rounded view of British history, or indeed BIPOC history (Black Indigenous People of Colour). Neither were we taught about ongoing racial inequalities and injustices. These experiences are echoed by the testimonies collected as part of the letter.

Many younger students tell us that classes are still insufficient in providing students with a comprehensive understanding of Britain’s past and BIPOC experience. 

We left JFS five years ago; in our time at JFS we learnt briefly about the transatlantic slavery, and then in elected classes later at JFS we learnt briefly about the struggle for civil rights in the USA. We urge JFS to elect diverse modules and incorporate such education into other subjects to make the curriculum more inclusive.

We do not intend to take away from JFS’s Jewish education; it is because of our Jewish education at JFS that we seek to learn more. From testimonies received, it is clear that students are driven in part by the education we received on Jewish history and consequently want to learn more about other minority groups and the struggles they have faced and continue to face. 

As noted in the letter, we think that even the Jewish education could be diversified, to better understand the experience of groups such as the Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews. 

The letter also explains how other subjects could be changed too, and how workshops, unrelated to the curriculum, could help in achieving a more anti-racist education at JFS.

In our experience, the need to fight against antisemitism was often discussed, however this never went hand in hand with discussing the importance of fighting against other forms of xenophobia and racism. 

We were taught the importance of Jewish values, such as always seeking justice and loving thy neighbour. In practice, JFS fell short of incorporating this into their education. We were taught our important history as a Jewish people but insufficiently about other forms of inequality and oppression in throughout history and today.



June 09, 2020 12:42

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