In one incident, a five-year-old boy was harassed for weeks by other children in his school’s bathrooms. The child, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, was attending the Hawthorn West Primary School.
According to the report, he was chased continuously to the bathroom and laughed at for being circumcised, to the point that he started to wet himself in class rather than using the toilet. He was also addressed with expressions such as “Jewish cockroach.”
In an interview with The Australian Jewish News, the mother of the boy said that after behaving strangely for months, one morning he burst out crying over breakfast.
A 12-year-old Jewish student was forced to kneel down and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate, while a five-year-old boy was allegedly called a “Jewish cockroach” and repeatedly hounded in the school toilets.
“He literally fell down on the floor,” his mother told The AJN, “and said, ‘Mummy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless Jewish rodent. I’m vermin.”
Although the school acknowledged the bullying, they did not treat it as an antisemitic incident.
“While school staff were not able to substantiate that any negative interactions were antisemitic in nature, on the basis of those investigations, school staff identified an incident that involved children laughing at [the boy],” the North-West Victoria Department of Education director Barbara Crowe told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This was not acceptable and would have been an unpleasant experience for [the boy]. I am sorry that this occurred.”
In a separate incident, a 12-year-old was forced to kiss a Muslim classmate’s feet in a public park under the threat of being beaten by several other boys. The incident was filmed and the images circulated widely online.
The child was attending Cheltenham Secondary College in Victoria. According to the report, no action has been taken by the school against the group of Muslim boys involved, because the incident did not happen on the school’s premises.
However, the parents of the student who presented his feet to be kissed were described as “horrified” by their son’s behavior.
Both boys were withdrawn from their respective schools.
B’nai Brith International President Charles Kaufman wrote a letter to the school principal of Cheltenham Secondary College, expressing his disappointment in the response to the incident. “Somehow you find the hurling of vile anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse against a 12-year-old Jewish student as mere bullying, an isolated incident,” Kaufman wrote. “Somehow you feel powerless to do anything about this shameful act because the incident occurred off campus.
“Are these nine students enrolled in your school?” he asked. “If so, you have an ethical and professional responsibility, if not a legal one, to address this matter with the students and their parents.”
He concluded by stating that “B’nai B’rith International condemns this hateful, criminal assault. If you sit and do nothing, you sit in shame.”
B’nai Brith International is an organization dedicated, among other things, to advancing human rights and Israel advocacy.