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At Least Two DelVal School Districts Are Dealing With Alleged Antisemitism of Board Members

As blowback from the Israeli/Hamas war continues to affect the U.S. some elected officials revealed their thoughts on social media, leading to controversy. State Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) protested with pro-Palestinian groups at 30th Street Station recently. And one of Saval’s staffers posted anti-Israel, pro-Hamas messages to social media.

Now a Colonial School Board member and a newly elected but unsworn Upper Dublin School Board member have both been called out for alleged antisemitic incidents.

After she said in a Facebook post that the Israeli Defense Force was a terrorist group and that their campaign against Hamas was genocide, Colonial School District residents were outraged. School Board Member Jamina Clay Ph.D. submitted her resignation and the board heard comments from an outraged public at a Thursday night meeting.

Although she has resigned from her elected suburban post, Clay remains an assistant superintendent in the Philadelphia School District, which released a statement saying that while they disagree with her comments, she has a First Amendment right to speak.

Clay posted an apology to Facebook: “Because of the pain that my post has caused, I have resigned from my seat on the Colonial School Board effective immediately. I understand that the district needs to heal from the painful words that I chose, and it is best to do that in my absence. The board is prepared to move forward and I hope that with me no longer occupying the seat, the community is able to do so as well…I apologize for the post that I made and I hope to learn from this situation. I will continue to pray for peace in the Middle East.”

The  board will vote on whether to accept Clay’s resignation next month.

The district issued a statement, that said in part, “Colonial School District prides itself on cultivating a sense of belonging. All our schools work hard each year to maintain their designations as No Place for Hate Schools as part of our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and take part in many other initiatives and programs meant to encourage equity, inclusion, and belonging. We condemn all forms of hatred and violence and remind all that we have counseling services available for anyone who may be struggling.”

“The work to cultivate a sense of belonging in our schools is ever-evolving and never truly complete. We continue this work in a spirit of kindness, empathy, and in the hopes of moving our district forward in a positive direction,” the sdistrict said.

Jamina Clay Ph.D.

A petition with more than 2,000 signatures has been launched about Tricia Ebarvia, a newly elected Upper Dublin School Board member who ran as a Democrat.

Ebarvia posted to Facebook promoting a seminar that purports to teach the history of Israel and the Palestinians but is filled with inaccurate and antisemitic tropes. Among them are descriptions of Israel as a colonial power and references to  “ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”

Community members then launched  a petition with more than 1,500 signatures, asking her to refuse to be sworn in and apologize to the Upper Dublin community.

Ebarvia’s post, made shortly after her election, encouraged Upper Dublin residents, students, and teachers to participate in the webinar entitled “Getting to the Root: Sharing Stories and Humanizing Palestine-Part 1”.

One of the speakers on the webinar (who Ebarvia follows on Instagram) is Sawsan Jaber. Jaber recently posted a message on X (formerly Twitter) referring to President Joseph Biden as “Genocide Joe.”

In another X post, Jaber, a teacher in the Chicago area, wrote, “Teaching Palestine is dismantling single story narratives that serve the purpose of justifying genocide and displacement funded by our American $$. You can’t be a social justice advocate and not advocate for Palestinians.”

The petition says, “In the Upper Dublin School District, we have a relatively large number of Jewish students, parents, teachers, staff, and administration members. The District is also home to a number of Israelis. The language identified in the webinar’s description and Ms. Ebarvia’s close association with those who are supporting the same is very concerning. The language is not only inaccurate and extremely hurtful to Jewish and Israeli people, but her associates’ comments about the United States should be distressing to all Americans.”

Jaclyn Ackerman signed the petition and wrote, “We thought we lived in this bubble called Upper Dublin, and this bubble is no longer a bubble. After seeing what has been going on in Jewish communities throughout the world, we need to stand up and not be silent in the face of ignorance. Never again is now!”

Another person who signed, Ryan Levinson, wrote, “It is absolutely disgusting that this is happening in UD–a place that has been very welcoming to Jews since I was born. I graduated from UD in 2019 and could not be more disappointed. It is sad knowing that an Upper Dublin school board member is stupid enough to fall for the propaganda and lies being pushed out by Hamas.”

“Ms. Ebarvia’s social media activities demonstrate a complete lack of judgment with and, worse, has essentially endorsed antisemitic propaganda that has no place in our community,” the petition states. It asks that Ebarvia not take the oath of office and apologize to the community.

Otherwise, it suggests her removal from the board will be sought.

Ebarvia, who works as a diversity, equity, and inclusion administrator at the Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia, did not respond to requests for comment.

Upper Dublin School Board President Jeff Wallack released this statement: “It is not the Board’s position to comment on election matters or statements made by, or about, a community member recently elected to the Board, but not yet sworn in and seated. It is the Board’s position to comment that the mission of the School District is to provide the best educational opportunities and support to and for all students.  The Board and the District oppose anything contrary to that mission, including acts of hatred, bullying, and intolerance such as, without limitation, terrorism, antisemitism, and religious or cultural discrimination or intolerance of any type against members of any community.”

FLOWERS: State Senator Joins Anti-Israel Protesters

“Never forget?” In Philadelphia today, it’s hard to remember.

Maybe it’s the obnoxious sit-ins by pro-Palestinian protestors that disrupted traffic at 30th Street this week. Perhaps the troubling chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free” wafted across Rittenhouse Square.

Whatever the cause, it’s hard to remember there was a very brief moment when people in the Delaware Valley actually found a bit of their humanity and roundly condemned the terrorist attacks against innocent Jews in Israel.

As heartening as they were brief, the social media messages, pronouncements from the White House, and comments from kings and commoners alike seemed to confirm that when innocent babies are murdered, their mothers raped, and their grandmothers shot through the head, the human thing was to mourn them.

That is why the people who took the side of Hamas in those first crucial moments stand out to me as particularly vile and inhuman. Now, as the tide has turned towards condemnation of Israel and outright antisemitism, the desire to highlight the plight of Gazans and minimize the pain of Jews is common.

But on Oct. 8 and 9, in the hours and days after the genocidal assault on innocent concert-goers and families, the thought that a person with even the most minimal understanding of persecution and torture could actually come out and support Hamas was unthinkable.

Unthinkable, that is, until we were presented with the ugly facts.

George Donnelly, the chief of staff of state Sen. Nikil Saval, found comfort and solidarity in certain social media accounts that immediately blamed the victims of Hamas for their deaths. Donnelly retweeted posts that suggested the Israelis were guilty of their own demise because they were living on Palestinian land and taunted the Jewish victims by saying, “What y’all think decolonization meant?” Donnelly apparently agreed, since he retweeted the accounts, that one way to obtain Palestinian autonomy was to murder Jews.

It is unclear whether Donnelly is still on Saval’s payroll, although given the senator’s fellow travelers and his purposeful solidarity with the Palestinian people, I suspect he got a promotion. While the senator has every right to choose the people who staff his office and support his mission, the old adage of “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas” is appropriate in this context.

The fact that a sitting state senator is aligned with a man who openly supported the massacre of innocents is beyond troubling. His momentary concessions that “I deplore and condemn the murder of innocent civilians by Hamas” rings hollow, given the fact that he has since aligned himself with protestors seeking the elimination of Israel.

For example, Saval recently joined that sit-in at 30th Street, demanding a ceasefire. Saval is a fairly observant fellow, so you would think that he knew there already was a ceasefire, but it ended on Oct. 7 when Palestinian terrorists murdered babies. In this context, a ceasefire means only one thing: stop going after the terrorists who targeted innocent Jews and who are using their own citizens as human shields. That is what a ceasefire would mean. It would also allow Hamas to benefit from its own evil agenda and convince its allies, Hezbollah and Iran, that attacks will be met by appeasement.

Anyone who believes that hasn’t been watching Israel operate over the past 75 years.

I know that there are a lot of misguided folks in the Delaware Valley who are playing the “both sides are at fault” game. I know that there are people who will clamor about Islamophobia when the only places of worship being defaced these days are synagogues, and the only university students being threatened are Jewish. I know that there are men and women who will rip down the posters of missing Jewish children because they believe that unless the face of every Palestinian child is posted as well, justice demands that we ignore the Jewish hostages.

I know these people exist, and I try to block them from my airspace, but that’s not possible when the person you want to block is your state senator.

What I can do is continue to point out to his fellow constituents the sort of people he chooses to work with, associate with, and represent him to the public. One of those people apparently mistakes massacres for legitimate political action.

Philly State Sen. Staffer Posts Anti-Israeli Messages

In the wake of the brutal Hamas attack on Israel, George Donnelly, the chief of staff for progressive state Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia), retweeted anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian statements.

In response to denunciations of Hamas’ violence against Israeli civilians, one social media account responded, “What did y’all think decolonization meant? Vibes? Papers? Essays? Losers.” And “Progressive commentators saying Palestinians have entered ‘Israeli territory’…baby check yourselves. You’re part of the problem.” Another responded to criticism of Hamas violence with the message, “Damn, a lot of you really are fairweather friends to the Palestinians.”

Donnelly retweeted all of these statements.

Saval (D-Philadelphia) did not respond to a request for comment.  However, Saval did issue a statement denouncing Hamas and Donnelly has since deleted his posts.

State Sens. Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks) and Judith Schwank (D-Berks) cosponsored a memo that Senate Leader Jay Costa cosigned for a resolution condemning the terrorist attacks.

“As you no doubt know by now, on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, or as it is called in Hebrew, Shabbat — and nearly 50 years to the day after the beginning of the Yom Kippur War, which was deliberately started on Judaism’s holiest day — Hamas launched an unprovoked terrorist attack against Israel, firing over 2500 rockets at cities throughout the country, while invading Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. As of this writing, according to many reports, hundreds of Israelis have been killed, and many have been taken hostage, including civilians and young children.

“When the Senate reconvenes on October 16, we will be introducing a resolution condemning this unprovoked and repugnant attack and voicing our strong support for the State of Israel and its people in their time of need. We invite you to join us by co-sponsoring this resolution,” the memo stated.

The Pennsylvania Republican House leadership commented: “We strongly condemn terrorism against America’s closest ally, the nation of Israel. As terrorists have invaded their sovereign borders, taken hostages, and launched offensive weapons that have killed more than 900 innocent Israelis and injured thousands more, Israel deserves America’s strong support.

“Many hearts are broken, and it will take a very long time for hearts to heal. The Yom Kippur War anniversary rekindled many of the traumatic feelings Israelis who survived that war as wounded and imprisoned soldiers, survivors, spouses, and children and grandchildren of victims have been quietly and privately living with for decades. The wounds from this attack, touching so many families, will likewise linger. The stories of those murdered, wounded, and kidnapped within their homes and ‘safe rooms,’ and during their parties and holiday celebrations is heartbreaking.”

“There should be no equivocation on this matter. Those who are marching in Philadelphia and with organizations in line with the Democratic Socialists of America, who count members of the Democratic Party as their members, supporters, and political allies, should be ashamed of the dissemination of the worst type of propaganda.

“These are immoral actions that call for bipartisan denunciation. Our prayers are with those who suffered the atrocities of these acts of terror.”