February 26, 2024

The response to accusations of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School in Queens has been significant. Videos showing an unruly protest last month have drawn widespread criticism, including from the Mayor of New York City. However, school officials, including city schools chancellor David Banks and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, are pushing back against accusations, with Banks stating that many students running or jumping during the protest were not aware of what was going on. According to Banks, social media and the school’s portrayal on social media has played a significant role in how students viewed the protest. Banks added that students felt that the teacher, who had stated her support for Israel, was affirming what was happening to the Palestinian community. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups, and has sparked calls for further action to combat antisemitism in public schools. Some students will be suspended following the incident, but officials declined to specify the number of students or details of the punishments, citing privacy laws. The incident, however, has sparked criticism from a range of local Jewish leaders, who say the response has been unacceptable.