This story, originally published at 5:14 p.m., was updated on Sept. 23 at 7:20 p.m. to clarify that the letter was sent out on Wednesday.
During a lunch period at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, a “group of students were observed outside filming themselves performing an antisemitic salute,” Renay Johnson, the school’s principal, said in a letter to families on Wednesday.
The incident was reported to Montgomery County Police, and the school is conducting its own investigations to “understand the motivations behind this behavior and to prevent any future incidents,” Johnson said in the letter.
Johnson said “We take this incident seriously, as it goes against our school’s core values of respect, tolerance, and inclusion” and “We have and will continue to have zero tolerance for hate/biased speech or gestures.”
Additionally, Montgomery County’s “Board of Education policy and MCPS regulations expressly prohibit the use of language, images, or symbols that promote hatred,” according to the letter.
The letter includes multiple resources to educate individuals about antisemitism and the county’s policy on hate and discrimination.
This incident occurred amidst a rampant spike in antisemitism in Montgomery County. According to the American Jewish Committee, the 2022 Maryland Department of State Police Hate Bias Report (which will be publicly released Oct. 1) shows that there were 77 antisemitic incidents in 2022, compared to 48 in 2021.
“These figures demonstrate that we need to take concrete steps to confront antisemitism; the time for simply talking about it has long passed,” said Alan Ronkin, American Jewish Committee regional director in an email statement. “As we prepare to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, we know that both the Jewish community and law enforcement need to be extra vigilant.”
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sunday and lasts until Monday evening.
Montgomery County created an Anti-Hate Task Force, which began meeting in July, to address increased hate and discrimination.
The task force met on Aug. 29 to discuss how to combat the rampant antisemitism in the county recently.
On Aug. 23, there was antisemitic graffiti found under a bridge off Josiah Henson Parkway on a pedestrian tunnel near Tildenwood Drive in North Bethesda.
MCPS declined to provide a comment.
Because of all of the incidents that occurred in 2023 and last year, Ronkin told MoCo on Saturday that he was unfortunately not surprised by this recent hate incident.
“We’ve had a really rough go over the last year and a half or so in our community, and this is just another example of something we really need to address,” Ronkin said. “We have to stop it.”