Berkeley Public Schools Chief to Testify at Congressional Antisemitism Hearing

(Los Angeles Times/TNS/Hamodia) – As pressure mounts on the heads of universities and schools nationwide to tackle growing antisemitism, the head of the Berkeley public school district is being summoned to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of congressional members amid allegations of antisemitism in her schools.

Berkeley Unified Superintendant Enikia Ford Morthel said Monday that she would travel to the nation’s capital for a May 8 hearing to field elected officials’ questions in the latest chapter of congressional inquiries into campus antisemitism that previously contributed to the resignations of the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The hearing in the House Education and Workforce Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), comes as the district of 9,100 students battles accusations that it has become an unwelcome place for Jews since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory war in Gaza.

In March, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Anti-Defamation League filed a federal complaint with the Department of Education over “severe and persistent” harassment and discrimination against Jewish kids enrolled in Berkeley schools. It said school leaders “knowingly allowed” a “viciously hostile” anti-Jewish environment.

The center, which is run by a former Education Department assistant secretary for civil rights under President Trump, has lodged similar complaints against multiple higher education institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania and Wellesley College. It also sued the University of California and UC Berkeley officials in the fall over allegations of campus antisemitism.

Last week, a Jewish parent in the Berkeley district, Yossi Fendel, also sued the district, saying it failed to adequately respond to his requests to release ninth-grade teaching materials about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That lawsuit was filed with the Deborah Project, a legal group that focuses on antisemitism in schools.

Morthel will be joined at the hearing by New York City Schools Chancellor David C. Banks and the board of education president of Montgomery County, Maryland, Karla Silvestre. The school districts, which are among the largest in the U.S., have also seen intense activism over the war in Gaza against the Hamas terror group, and reports of antisemitic incidents.

A spokeswoman for Berkeley schools said that Morthel, who previously worked in schools in San Francisco and Hayward, “did not seek this invitation.”

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