Community members gather at Whitman HS in December for a menorah-lighting after antisemitic graffiti was found on Whitman's entrance sign. Credit: Mike Landsman

Hundreds of students and staff at Walt Whitman High School participated in a walkout Thursday morning to show support for their Jewish classmates and call for increased Holocaust education within Montgomery County Public Schools.

The walkout comes less than a week after graffiti reading “Jews not welcome here” was found painted across Whitman’s entrance sign and antisemitic emails were sent to Whitman staff.

“This walkout was not only a call to MCPS,” student organizer Rachel Barold said, “but also to show whoever did this and the students that continue to make jokes about the Holocaust, about Nazis, about Jewish people that it’s not funny. It’s not OK.”

Barold, a freshman at Whitman, said she and several other peers began organizing the walkout almost immediately after they heard about the graffiti.

“It’s Hanukkah right now, and this kind of antisemitism right before Hanukkah really hit home for a lot of the Jewish students at Walt Whitman,” Barold told Bethesda Beat. “We viewed it as the time to speak up — the time to get stuff done.”

She said even without the graffiti, there have been “countless antisemitic occurrences” at Whitman, so much so that last week the school held a campus-wide lesson on antisemitism. She called Thursday’s walkout “something that was built up to.”


State Del. Marc Korman (D-Dist. 16) and several local rabbis spoke to attendees before the microphone was left open for any students interested in speaking. Barold estimates around 10 students approached the mic.

Credit: Rabbi Adam Raskin

Barold said one of the key purposes of the walkout was to call for MCPS to include more required Holocaust education in its curriculum.

Current MCPS curriculum requires students to take one unit’s worth of Holocaust education during a U.S. history course in ninth or 10th grade, Barold said. “Otherwise, that’s pretty much it.” Unless an English teacher decides to include The Diary of Anne Frank as required reading, no other Holocaust education is required by MCPS.


Rabbi Adam Raskin from Potomac’s Congregation Har Shalom also spoke at the walkout. He told Bethesda Beat that lack of adequate Holocaust education is a larger issue at the state level. Currently, 23 states legally mandate lessons on the Holocaust to be included in school curriculum. Maryland is not one of them, something Raskin called “inexcusable.”

Both Raskin and Korman said the best part of the morning was the open mic. Students with relatives who either survived or were killed in the Holocaust spoke about the internalization of traumatic family history, Raskin said. Some students said they felt afraid to be openly Jewish at school because they heard classmates telling Nazi and Holocaust jokes.

Raskin remembered one student pulling a Star of David necklace out of his shirt and telling the crowd, “I’m not going to hide this anymore. I’m proud of who I am.”


Korman said students spoke about seeing antisemitism at Whitman “far beyond what’s been publicly reported” with the graffiti. He said his own speech emphasized the importance of paying attention to the threat of antisemitism both outside and inside the school building.

The overwhelming show of community support across the county following recent antisemitic events has been astonishing, Raskin said. Since Hanukkah began on Sunday, community members have gathered every night outside Whitman for a menorah-lighting vigil. Raskin estimated more than 200 people showed up at Wednesday night’s vigil.

“I think the silver lining and the irony is that whoever did this tried to … strike fear in the hearts of Jews at Whitman,” he said. “What ended up happening was this tremendous galvanization of support, awareness and unity. I hope that continues.”