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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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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.”