Latest act of antisemitism at Brooklyn public school raises renewed concerns about hate attacks

exterior of PS 682 in Brooklyn
A Jewish family was attacked during a fifth-grade graduation ceremony at P.S. 682 in Brooklyn.
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In yet another act of antisemitism in NYC, a Jewish family was verbally and physically assaulted at a fifth-grade graduation ceremony in Brooklyn.  

But the incident, first reported in the New York Post on Sunday, is just one of many hate attacks that have plagued NYC schools since the start of the Israel – Hamas war on Oct. 7, 2023. 

During the graduation incident, which took place on June 14 at P.S. 682 in Gravesend, a Jewish family was physically assaulted by an Arabic-speaking family when they were trying to take photos in front of a school banner.

The NYPD ended up arresting a man involved in the episode, 26-year-old Ez-Al Dean Bazar of Brooklyn, who was charged with third-degree assault. The NYPD is investigating the incident as a hate crime. 

School officials said both families participated in violence and did not stop fighting, even when directed by the assistant principal.  

“Graduations should be times of celebration and joy, and we strongly denounce anyone who acts in a violent or aggressive way during such events,” said Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the Department of Education (DOE). “Initial reports we have received from multiple witnesses indicate that both families engaged in aggressive behavior, but we are still investigating the matter and are simultaneously engaging with families as we work towards a resolution.”  

Since Oct. 7, antisemitism in public schools and colleges, across the city and the United States, have been on the rise. In fact, U.S. college campuses experienced 505 antisemitic incidents and K-12 schools reported at least 246 incidents, according to the Anti-Defamation League

Antisemitism has become a scourge for the city and for Schools Chancellor David Banks as he continues his efforts to combat antisemitism in schools. Even many New Yorkers have been getting fed-up with the ongoing attacks of hate, both in and out of the classroom.

“Antisemitism appears to be growing throughout the city, and some people just keep ignoring it,” said one New Yorker, Maria, who preferred using only her first name.

Holocaust survivor Mark Schonwetter, who founded the Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation with his daughters, said the “ferocious” surge in antisemitism can in part be linked to what he calls a lack of education surrounding the Holocaust. 

“As Jewish residents of New York City and the United States, we alone cannot solve this issue,” Schonwetter said. “We need to sit down together, people of different backgrounds and faiths to come together and unite with leadership. Today it’s the Jews and tomorrow it’s someone else so we need to unite and fight antisemitism and all forms of hate together.”

Alison Devlin, a single mom from Manhattan, said antisemitism in the classroom is a problem, but it also depends on the school in question.

“I am fortunate because the public school that my child attends is not that bad,” she said. 

Marchers at the Salute to Israel Parade on June 2, 2024 called for hostages to be released.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Self-defense in an ‘uncertain time’

Devlin is a Jewish advocate who attends many pro-Israel rallies. She is more concerned about the rampant antisemitism occurring throughout the city. While she is thankful for the work the NYPD has done to protect bystanders, Jewish people and Jewish supporters during ongoing protests and riots, she realizes their hands are sometimes tied with what they can do to punish offenders. 

women learning self defense in a gym
Lyss Stern and Alison Devlin, founders of Bad Ass Moms, show self defense techniques.Photo credit: Sam Cohen

She and fellow Manhattan mom Lyss Stern even started a self-defense program called “Bad Ass Moms” to teach high school seniors, women and college-age girls self-defense in what she calls an “uncertain time.” Proceeds from the program benefit End Jew Hatred, a movement that is centered around Jewish freedom from oppression and discrimination. 

“We don’t ever want to have to use this. But we’re living in 2024 in Manhattan, and this is a different world,” said Stern, a mom of three. 

man teachers two women self defense in a gym
Bad Ass Moms chief instructor Tommy DiLalloPhoto credit: Sam Cohen

She added that social media is adding fuel to the antisemitism fire by providing young people with constant misinformation, or repeating what people in the pro-Palestinian movement are doing without fully understanding what they are seeing. 

“People believe that what they see on social media, that they should be a part of this, but they don’t know what they are saying. They don’t know what they are chanting,” Stern said. 

Combating antisemitism in the classroom

NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks
Department of Education Chancellor David Banks.Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

In May, Banks was one of several leaders from public school district across the country who had to testify in front of Congress about antisemitism in the classroom. Lawmakers grilled Banks about several high-profile incidents, including one at Hillcrest High School in Queens in which a teacher had to hide in a locked office after a mob of teenagers angrily called for her termination because she supports Israel. 

The ongoing Israel-Hamas War has pitted many Jewish and pro-Palestinian students and faculty against eachother in NYC and across the country, and it is a socio-political subject teachers have been grappling with discussing in the classroom. 

Banks has been on a campaign to end antisemitism in city schools starting with a plan launched in January that includes professional learning focused on navigating difficult conversations, expanded materials focused on combating hate and updated diversity training. 

Last month, Banks joined City Council Member Julie Menin (D-Manhattan) and Jewish officials in announcing a new initiative at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park City to teach kids about the horrific world event. 

As part of the program, the museum will expand its school-group tour program, hire additional education staff, facilitate discussions and provide resources for teachers to include in their classroom lessons.