“Incidents of anti-Jewish bullying committed by, and directed at, schoolchildren must never be excused or tolerated. As a nation, we have a responsibility to protect and assist victims and do what we can to eliminate racist behaviour and bullying,” said Dr. Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, in response to reports today of two serious incidents of antisemitic bullying at Victorian schools.
“Schools must not just provide safe and nurturing environments, but also present a culture which militates against bigotry. There can be no room for moral prevarication.
“Schools must not simply dismiss such alleged racist attacks as ordinary ‘bullying’, nor refuse to act because the actual violence and threats occurred off school property, as appears to have happened in the recently reported cases,” Dr Rubenstein said.
“AIJAC was therefore pleased to see that Victorian Education Minister James Merlino unequivocally condemn antisemitism in schools and call for a review into how schools are handling these appalling occurrences – as well as planning to meet with the parents, officials from the schools concerned, and Jewish community groups to explore what further action can be done both to help the victims in the currently reported cases and seek to prevent such incidents from recurring,” Dr Rubenstein added.
Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of International and of Community Affairs, added, “Education against bullying and racism should be a core activity at all Australian schools, taught in ways appropriate to the developmental stage of students. In addition, reports of this kind must always be dealt with proactively. Furthermore, where problems of this nature are reported, schools should be actively reaching out to gain assistance from anti-racism experts and community groups.
“Despite these incidents, Australia remains a largely harmonious multicultural society, where Jews and other minorities can feel welcome and at home, and AIJAC is heartened by the strong reactions – locally and internationally – to this week’s report of targeting of Jewish children at Melbourne schools. These reactions reinforce the fact that antisemitism is repugnant in our society – yet the fact that it is present in Australia, in a variety of forms, is something which must be both a cause for concern and a call to action. The incidents reported in Melbourne underline how important it is that the response be immediate, unambiguous and effective,” Mr Jones concluded.