Anti-Semitism in the Schoolyard: Combatting Racial Prejudice Early On

Zehavit Gross, Suzanne Rutland
27 August 2015
Anti-Semitism in the Schoolyard: Combatting Racial Prejudice Early On

This presentation is part of a broader, qualitative research project, which began in 2006 and is continuing to date. This research includes six Australian Jewish schools, three in Sydney and three in Melbourne, two Jewish schools in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, one in Auckland, one in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the Australian Boards of Jewish Education. In addition, Professor Gross has researched six Jewish schools in Paris, three in Brussels and one in Geneva.

Although our research initially only focused on the private Jewish day schools, we decided to extend it to the Jewish Special Religious Education/Special Religious Instruction (SRE/SRI) offered in government schools and known colloquially as “scripture classes”. In our planning, we did not even consider the issue of antisemitism. This was especially so in Australia, with its multicultural ethos, where we thought stereotypical antisemitism was a phenomenon of the past.

To our amazement, both primary and high-school Jewish students in state schools spontaneously told us that they loved to attend SRE/SRI classes because they found them to be a “safe place” in the face of the antisemitism that they were experiencing in the playground.

In this presentation we will:

1. Provide a brief background re racism and anti-Semitism;

2. Discuss research about racial bullying and exclusion of NESB children in the schoolyard;

3. Explain our methodology before outlining our findings and discussing their significance;

4. Discuss a more specific study in Canberra; and

5. Discuss and make recommendations.

Educating for multiculturalism is a major challenge for migrant societies across the world. Some politicians, such as the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, have claimed that efforts to create a multicultural society have failed. Whilst these views were also reflected in statements by former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, the Australian government is still investing significant resources in multicultural education. We argue that such an approach is needed in order to counter racial bullying in the playground.

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