Leaked email shows Toronto area school board dropped use of Star of David in multifaith calendar

1 month ago 816

A screenshot of an email circulating online mentioned tensions in Israel as the reason for the switch

Published May 09, 2024  •  2 minute read

Women light candles in the shape of the Star of David during the symposium on fighting antisemitism on January 22, 2024 in Krakow, Poland.Women light candles in the shape of the Star of David during the symposium on fighting antisemitism on Jan. 22, 2024 in Krakow, Poland. Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images

Toronto area school board “will be making changes” after its decision to no longer use the Star of David as a symbol for Judaism in school’s multifaith calendar sparked backlash.

The Menorah — a candelabra that is lit over the course of the eight nights of Hannukah, known as the festival of lights — is currently being used to mark Jewish holidays.

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Many were upset after the screenshot of an email by the York Region District School Board mentioned the recent tensions in Israel as a reason for the switch.

“For judaism, the Menorah was chosen over the Star of David due to its purely religious significance, while the Star of David carries political connotations with the State of Israel,” reads the leaked email.

The email was addressed to York Region District School Board Trustee Estelle Cohen and Superintendent of Education Michael Grieve.

Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism Deborah Lyons wrote on X, formerly Twitter, calling it “inconceivable.”

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Inconceivable. A true insult to the Jewish community in the York region and across 🇨🇦.

I’ve just come back from the March of the Living in Poland with a delegation from Canada including 6 of our Holocaust survivors. This decision is an injury - especially to those brave and… https://t.co/fPdwwoVSly

— Deborah Lyons (@DeborahLyonsSE) May 9, 2024

“A true insult to the Jewish community in the York region and across [Canada],” Lyons tweeted Thursday early morning. “I will reach out to Ontario’s Minister of Education and the York Region District School Board to reiterate that this must be reversed, and an apology should be issued immediately.”

Joe Roberts, X user and managing director at Ottawa-based consultancy firm Winston Wilmont, said, “The insanity has to stop.”

“That some administrator at the York Region District School Board thought that removing the Star of David as a symbol of Judaism because it is a ‘political symbol’ was a right and good decision tells us everything we need to know,” he wrote on X.

Meanwhile, X user @neveragainlive1 called the school board’s decision a new level of antisemitism.

“The York Regional District School Board has decided that the Star of David will no longer be used as a symbol of Judaism because it is part of the flag of Israel and it is offensive to the anti Israel Muslim Community. In other words, Jews are no longer welcome in York Region. This is the new level of antisemitism,” tweeted X user @neveragainlive1.

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In response shortly after the backlash, the York Region District School Board said the Menorah is a symbol that been used in the calendar for “several years and no change was made this year.” They said they would be taking immediate action.

“We have received concerns regarding a social media post and an email explaining the rationale for the use of a Menorah as the symbol for Jewish holidays and observances,” they said in a statement online.

“However, as a result of feedback received regarding the existing symbolism, we will be making changes to the Board’s online calendar to ensure it is representative of Jewish identity.”

They apologized for any “hurt or harm caused by this matter.”

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