On Sunday, members of the Toronto Jewish community rallied outside the headquarters of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to demand that the board call out anti-Semitism.
The protest was organized by Rabbi Corey Margolese, who told CityNews that demonstrators were there due to a recent student walkout that took place at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.
During the incident, students carried signs saying “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and were seen in a TikTok video of the event “sloganeering Hamas echoes of ‘From Rive to Sea’ and followed by ‘Free, Free Palestine,’" according to the Abraham Global Peace Initiative.
“The TDSB had the opportunity to chastise teachers who were influencing and complimenting students on the use of these phrases and standing up in protest,” Rabbi Margolese said.
He added that instead the board released a statement saying that the phrase is not anti-Semitic.
Their lack of response was the impetus for the rally outside the TDSB main office. Approximately 60 people attended, with Rabbi Margolese saying they plan to hold more protests.
“It was done in support of Jewish workers and their families,” Rabbi Margolese said. “It’s very clear that those who know what these things mean know that there is no other way to take them other than in an anti-Semitic manner. The board had an opportunity to correct behaviour of teachers acting inappropriately, and they didn’t take it.”
He also called for “real consequences” for teacher who “recognize that these acts are anti-Semitic in nature and who refuse to correct their behaviours.” Otherwise, he said, “We’re just going to see repetitions of this.”
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the news outlet that “members of the Jewish community have experienced these phrases as anti-Semitic, calling for the eradication of Israel, and hateful. Some Palestinians use these phrases as a statement of their human and land rights as people.”
He said that the TDSB will be appointing an “internal staff writing team” for seven months to offer training and additional resources to staff on forms of discrimination, along with asking for expert help from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.