An elite private school in Baltimore founded by Jews is revamping its curriculum in response to a pressure campaign by Black Lives Matter activists demanding an examination of the school's "wealth hoarding" and "tolerance of Zionism."
BLM activists' latest academic target is Baltimore’s Park School, which was founded in 1912 by Jews who were barred entry into the city’s existing private schools. In a letter to the school, an anonymous group identifying itself as the "Black at Park Organizing Collective" calls for "an examination of Park’s history: its inception, early exclusions, culture of whiteness and wealth hoarding, its tolerance of Zionism, and its parasitic relationship to Baltimore City."
The Collective, which claims to be composed of "recent and distant alumni," accused the school of promoting "anti-blackness" and "anti-black violence." It seeks radical changes to the school's curriculum, admissions, and hiring. The school, they claim, is home to "white supremacist structures and environments of learning, teaching, and community-making," and Park "has established this culture of anti-blackness as normal and permissible." The administration, they wrote, must "atone for the deep and painful anti-black violence our black peers have experienced."
The language in the letter highlights the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Black Lives Matter activism. Across the country, protesters associated with the movement have defaced Jewish institutions, demanded that American Jews denounce Israel, and embraced anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has condemned American Jews for years.
Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, spiritual leader for more than 40 years at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh synagogue, expressed concern about the Collective’s rhetoric.
"There are a lot of code words here that have been associated with anti-Semitic tropes," Wohlberg told the Washington Free Beacon. "But I don’t like calling people anti-Semitic unless I know them and know that to be true. However, [with] those tropes of ‘parasites’ and ‘wealth hoarding,' combined with ‘tolerance of Zionism,' you have to question the motives of these people."
Park administrators declined to address the Collective’s use of anti-Semitic language, but officials told the Free Beacon the school is working with the group to implement a series of reforms, including changes to its "diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives."
Peter Hilsee, a spokesman for the Park School, told the Free Beacon administrators are "aware of the letter" and are speaking with its authors.
"It would not be appropriate to provide details about our correspondence," Hilsee said. "I can say that our school is now involved in a robust process of reshaping our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and we are steadfastly committed to confronting systemic and institutionalized racism within our walls and in our broader community."
Hilsee did not respond to a follow-up email from the Free Beacon asking if the school is concerned about the Collective’s use of anti-Semitic tropes. The Black at Park Organizing Collective did not respond to a request for comment.
The Park School has been a fixture in Baltimore for decades and counts among its alumni many prominent American Jews, including Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. The school has deep roots in the Jewish community, serving for many years as one of the few private institutions that Jewish residents could attend. The school, which sits on a 100-acre campus and offers pre-K through 12th grade instruction, currently describes itself as "non-sectarian, independent, gender-inclusive" and committed to "inclusiveness and equity" in "all programs and activities."
The Black Lives Matter movement is steeped in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism. It has embraced economic boycotts of Israel, and activists associated with the movement have vandalized Jewish centers, such as synagogues and kosher restaurants. In Washington, D.C., for instance, the popular kosher restaurant Char Bar had its windows smashed by rioters in June.
Many Jewish officials have been nervous to speak out about the Black Lives Matter movement’s association with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic causes due to fear of retribution. American Jews have historically been sympathetic to civil-rights causes due to the abuse they faced in the United States.
Several Park School board members did not respond to a request for comment about whether they were concerned by the letter—including Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, Jane Frankel Sims, Lila Shapiro-Cyr, and Pete Sachs. Board members could play a role in advancing reforms prescribed by the activists.