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Embattled Upper Dublin School Board Member Resigns

Controversial Upper Dublin School Board Member Tricia Ebarvia’s career didn’t last through a single board meeting.

Facing a backlash over her connection to materials many believe are antisemitic, Ebarvia, elected on Nov. 7, announced her resignation at Wednesday’s board finance committee meeting. She was just sworn in at the district office the day before, Ebarvia said.

Ebarvia came under fire after she posted a link to a webinar purporting 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.”

Last week, parents and residents called for her resignation. More than 2,500 people signed an online petition asking the board to remove Ebarvia.

Some 75 people came to the board’s Dec. 6 reorganization meeting, many of them demanding Ebarvia’s ouster. Several residents told the board they were hurt and outraged that a board member would allegedly espouse antisemitic views after the violent and brutal Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 Israeli citizens, most of them civilians.

“For the last five weeks since becoming the center of our current firestorm, I have been in deep reflection, introspection, and conversation with others who are also trying to best to navigate this moment,” Ebarvia said at Wednesday’s meeting. “First and foremost, there are people who are sincerely hurt by the pain my post caused. That pain is something I regret deeply, and I am sorry.

“One life skills lesson that we teach at my school is when we make a mistake, we do our best to make it right,” Ebarvia continued. “The challenge, of course, is discerning what ‘right’ is.

“For many, the only right path forward is for me to resign my seat,” said Ebarvia. “They have one story about me. They have searched and scrutinized my social media and elsewhere for evidence to support this single story of me, selectively highlighting details that make me ‘guilty by association.’”

“They have called my place of work, spoken to the press, and sent emails to universities where I’ve been invited to speak,” said Ebarvia. “All in an effort to discredit me or worse.”

Ebarvia claimed “many people” had asked her to remain on the board.

“It is clear to me that however willing I am to listen and learn and dialogue, I will not be able to serve in the capacity I had hoped,” she said. “The work the board has ahead is too great and important, and I do not want to derail from that work.

“Although the voices at the last two meetings have been largely one-sided, these are not the only voices in the community,” she said.  She had spoken to numerous people in the community, including those who are Jewish. Many asked her to continue as a board member, she said.

But some are against diversity, equity and inclusion, and a parent told her it was about “woke cancel culture.”

“My fear is there are those in the community who will use what’s happened to me to derail the very work of equity and inclusion that our community needs now more than ever for all kids,” Ebarvia said.

In a similar incident in the Colonial School District, a school board member also resigned last month after she posted to Facebook calling the Israeli Defense Force a terrorist group, sparking outrage in that community.

Upper Dublin Parents, Residents Decry Antisemitism, Ask Board to Remove New Member

Just days after the Nov. 7 election, Democrat Tricia 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.”

She invited members of the community to attend the webinar.

Instead, about 75 residents showed up at an Upper Dublin School Board meeting on Wednesday. Most urged the board to remove Ebarvia before she is even sworn in.

Although she apologized later, Ebarvia did not attend the meeting Wednesday to be sworn in with the other new members. In a statement read before public comment, Ebarvia said she was traveling for business and would be sworn in later.

The board as a whole had previously issued a statement saying it was against antisemitism and any other hatred against “any community.”

Resident Anita Brister, who noted she is Catholic, said, “I felt the apology from Ms. Ebarvia at the other meeting raised some questions. Basically, sharing an anti-Israel webinar, I think it’s safe to say, is one-sided. It could be considered antisemitic. It could be considered propaganda. It was incredibly offensive and hurtful to many in the community.

“The especially troubling part to me was it wasn’t entirely honest, the apology,” said Brister. “Because originally, she told people she was tagged. Someone put it on her page…I know the difference between tagging and when you share something, which is actually what she did.”

A woman in a hijab and her husband, who both refused to give their last names, defended Ebarvia and lashed out at Israel and the war in Gaza.

Members of the audience called out while they spoke, one person saying, “Am Yisrael Chai,” a popular chant meaning “The people of Israel live.” Later, there were calls of “Jewish lives matter.”

An argument ensued after they told an audience member to delete pictures he had taken of the wife.

Resident Andy Kessler told the board the petition he had given on Nov. 15 asking Ebarvia to step down over the posting to the webinar hosted by “several notable antisemites” now has more than 2,500.

“While Ms. Ebarvia offered an apology at that board meeting, it fell far short,” said former board member Kessler. While Ebarvia said she shared the post out of what she called “‘compassion for people I know who are also suffering,’” Kessler said, “Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7 was the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history and the single deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. Women were raped and mutilated. Babies were placed into ovens to die. Sen. Jacky Rosen was in a group of 40 U.S. senators who screened footage from Oct. 7 in a closed-door session.”

He quoted Rosen (D-Nev.) as saying, “‘Given the effort by some individuals and organizations around the world to deny what happened that day, it was important that as policymakers, we bear witness to the full extent of atrocities committed by Hamas.’

“It does not seem that bearing witness to those atrocities, and the effect it had and continues to have on this community, is on Ms. Ebarvia’s radar. Ms. Ebarbvia is hosting a conference in Boston on Jan. 5, 2024, and at the conference, she is hosting a woman named Autumn Allen. Ms. Allen also (allegedly) has a history of posting and promoting antisemitic information…which parrots language used by Hamas.”

“It is an incredibly sad commentary that this information about this official came to light only after the ballots were cast,” he added. “We should demand more of our local party leaders, Chris Pastore and the Upper Dublin Democratic Committee.”

Some parents were concerned about antisemitic graffiti recently written in an Upper Dublin High School restroom and the slow reaction by school administrators. One mother said she had previously pulled her son out of the Upper Dublin School District and sent him to the Barrack Hebrew Academy because of antisemitic bullying by other students.

Dr. Melissa Barenbaum said her family joined others to donate copies of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” to the district after they were assured the books would be taught to students. Later, they found out they were not being taught in a meaningful way and asked for them back.

Resident Tamir Kuznits, who emigrated from Israel and still has family there, said, “I will not be silent about this.” Ebarvia asked people to sign into a webinar involving Israel “that depicted them as oppressors, ethnic cleansers and apartheid rulers and genocide creators.” She “did not lead the discussion but invited people to join in and listen. This tells me that Mrs. Ebarvia shares these views. She’s also friends with proven antisemites on Facebook. If I knew one of my Facebook friends was racist, antisemitic, or anti-American, I would drop them in a heartbeat, yet this was not the case here.”

“Ms. Ebarvia joins the same woke movement of uneducated pro-Hamas student protestors scattered across this nation,” Kuznits said. “Anyone who utters the words ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘From the river to the sea’ is 100 percent OK with the idea that innocent civilians must live every second with being blown apart with rockets launched with reckless abandon. Your child in the park playing with neighborhood friends may never come home. Free Palestine chanters agree with innocent people being killed in their homes. Women and children being gang raped, babies being disemboweled, burned alive, and people taken hostage to an undisclosed hell, especially if you are female.”

Hamas is “anti-gay, anti-women’s rights” and on a mission to “rid the world of all Jews, all Americans and control and destroy the western world.”

He asked the board to use “whatever means” to remove Ebarvia from office.

As residents requested, board President Jeffrey Wallack refrained from appointing Ebarvia to the policy, education, or curriculum committees. Vice President Mark Sirota said the board cannot oust her because “almost nothing is more sacred than the will of the voters.” Board members also said they are open to anti-bias training from the Anti-Defamation League or a similar group.

Ebarvia, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) administrator at the Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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