Antisemitic Social Media May Have Motivated School Riot

On November 20, 2023, a riot took place at Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens.

Prior to the riot, a Jewish teacher at Hillcrest had posted a picture of herself at a pro-Israel rally on social media. When students got wind of the social media post, they took action. Hundreds of students formed a mob at the school, waving Palestinian flags, chanting “free Palestine,” and calling for the firing of the teacher in question. The rioters destroyed a water fountain at the school and attempted to enter the classroom of the teacher who had posted her picture on social media. That teacher was forced to take shelter in a locked room and was later escorted from the building by police. One video of the mob scene depicted students shouting curses directed at “the Jews.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams described the riot as a “‘vile show of antisemitism.’” Days later, Chalkbeat reported that several students had been disciplined for their involvement in the riot. The president of the senior class at Hillcrest asserted that the riot had been intended to be a peaceful protest, but that it had escalated due to student immaturity; another student stated that the protest was supposed to express support for Palestine rather than hatred for Jews.

The Hillcrest riot is just one of many recent anti-Semitic occurrences in the United States since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack against Israel. Sadly, anti-Semitism is nothing new—and it appears to be growing. According to Time, research from the Anti-Defamation League earlier this year “found a spike in antisemitic beliefs among the American public, with 85% of Americans believing at least one anti-Jewish trope, up from 61% in 2019.” Furthermore, the ADL states that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased 36% in 2022. The question is: Why?

At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we believe that social media may be part of the problem. According to New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks, Hillcrest students “‘consume their information through social media.’” The Chancellor has a point. One problem with teens getting information about world events from social media is that they are highly impressionable and may not be experienced enough to distinguish between trustworthy content and biased or hateful content. Another problem is that teens viewing social media platforms may not seek parental input on the material they are viewing.

Parents, please talk to your children about anti-Semitism, and please be aware of the information that they consume online.