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.
A change.org petition with more than 2,00 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 change.org 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.”