Buzz Aldrin Middle School has adopted the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate, anti-bias, anti-bullying program, weeks after a parent shared her daughter’s experience with antisemitism at the school.
The 2022-23 initiative is intended to help Buzz Aldrin students and staff to create a school-run No Place for Hate Committee, according to a Monday press release from the school district. The committee will organize three anti-bias events during the school year, “each one entailing active participation from all Buzz Aldrin students,” the release says.
“We’re thrilled to bring ADL’s experience in building dynamic, inclusive school cultures to Buzz Aldrin,” Principal Major Jennings said in the release. “As we learned about the program, we were convinced that our students and staff would be tremendously excited to build a schoolwide movement of respect and empathy with ADL’s help.”
After successfully completing the program in the spring, Buzz Aldrin will be recognized as a national “No Place for Hate School” by the ADL, the release says.
Last school year, Michele Silver’s daughter was called a “Jewish (blank)” by a classmate, who used a vulgar slur referring to female genitalia. In early October, two students at Buzz Aldrin held up their arms in a Nazi salute in the direction of Silver’s daughter, Silver said at an Oct. 17 Montclair Board of Education meeting.
“When is enough enough?” Silver asked at the meeting. “What else has to happen to my child or anyone else’s for Buzz Aldrin and the administration to wake up and realize that antisemitism has been and continues to be a major problem in our schools?”
Silver told Montclair Local she wanted to bring attention to the issue and “to help enact Holocaust education and teach our students.”
“Awareness is the first step,” she said. “The second step is education. There’s clearly a level of ignorance and that ignorance is alarming to me.”
When Silver heard that Buzz Aldrin would be adopting the program, she was relieved and thrilled, she said.
“I was not expecting such a fast reaction to my statement and the media coverage of the antisemitism, but this is all I wanted to happen,” Silver said.
Silver had been planning to push for the exact ADL program adopted at Buzz, she said.
“There is a level of pride connected to being a part of this program, that’s what came across to me,” Silver said of the message that went out to Buzz Aldrin families on Monday. “I feel very proud of being instrumental in making the administrators see how serious things had become and how dire of a need there is for education.”
Silver reached out to Jennings Monday offering to help in the program.
The experiences of Silver’s daughter are not the first instances of antisemitism in the Montclair school district. In May 2021, an email from Montclair High School honoring American-born Israeli ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane offended community members who described Kahane as a “racist, violent terrorist.” During the 2019-2020 school year, swastikas were found at the high school on three separate occasions.
After Silver’s comments, schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds met with local rabbis to brief them on the incident. The group discussed anti-bias training, curricular enhancements and improved communication about antisemitic incidents, David Cantor, executive director of communications and community engagement, told Montclair Local.