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On JPAC Advocacy for an Improved Ethnic Studies Curriculum

The Jewish community must stand united in the final stages of this effort.
[additional-authors]
February 5, 2021
Modified from photo by Yaorusheng/Getty Images

In recent days, several articles have appeared about the proposed Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum in California. Some include inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the plan’s current state and ignore the vital advocacy work that the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC), the largest single-state alliance of Jewish organizations in the United States, and others accomplished during the past 18 months.

Recent misleading articles included excerpts from a first draft of the model curriculum that are no longer present in its current state, false and out-of-context references in the lesson plans on Jewish Americans and failure to properly present a full and accurate timeline, scope of advocacy work, and achievements by our diverse coalition of Jewish organizations across the state. Other news articles incorrectly referred to one of the lesson plans on Jewish Americans as echoing Nazi propaganda and characterizing Jews as imposters in plain sight.

Recent misleading articles included excerpts from a first draft of the model curriculum that are no longer present in its current state.

Our coalition has been involved with the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum process since July 2019, successfully advocating for the removal of all derogatory and denigrating language about Jews and Israel, the inclusion of anti-Semitism in discussions of forms of bias and hate, the addition of safeguards against the teaching of anti-Semitic material and the addition of material about the diversity of Jewish Americans. Our coalition and other partners submitted meaningful lesson plans that describe the immigration history of Jews to the United States, including targeting by the Ku Klux Klan, employment discrimination and university quotas and anti-Semitism that led many immigrants to change their Jewish-sounding names.

Today, the model curriculum is in greater alignment with Assembly Bill 2016, which called for its creation, as well as the guidelines of the State Board of Education and the California Education Code. The education code, for example, states that schools may not use instructional materials that contain “any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality or sexual orientation [or] occupation.”

From the start of this process, JPAC supported a rigorous and pedagogically sound ethnic studies curriculum that adheres to California’s core values of equity and inclusiveness and that accurately represents California’s diverse communities, including our own.

Although the process is not yet complete and the final Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum has not yet been determined, its current iteration is a significant improvement from previous drafts. JPAC has shared additional recommendations with the State Board of Education, which will decide on the educational plan by March 31, 2021.

With rising anti-Semitism in California and across the United States, the Jewish community must stand united in the final stages of this effort. JPAC will continue to be deeply engaged in the process to ensure that the final version stays free of bias against Jews. We will continue to work with our coalition partners, elected officials and the Department of Education to ensure that the gains we have made are protected.

Our fundamental goal remains to support a final version of California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that will build understanding and foster respect for the mosaic of ethnic groups in our great state.


Allison Gingold serves as JPAC board chair and Julie Zeisler serves as JPAC executive director. JPAC advocates in Sacramento on behalf of a diverse representation of the California Jewish community, including Jewish Federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils, Jewish Family Service agencies and other Jewish community organizations that serve the California Jewish community and the people of California at large.

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