JCRC Statement, with support of Community Partners, on Book Bans in Virginia Schools
The Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond vehemently condemns the banning of books in Virginia schools. We strongly oppose the use of banned book lists promoted by organizations from outside of Virginia whose agenda is to promote a narrow view of humanity that excludes the rights of many people of different cultures, races, sexual orientation, genders, and religions. Our history shows us the ramifications of such actions. Book banning was one of the first antisemitic actions of the Nazis leading up to the Holocaust. Ironically, the Holocaust is one of the topics of books on some of the suggested lists of books to be banned.
In the Greater Richmond area, as well as in counties throughout the Commonwealth, Senate Bill 656 has become the basis of parents requesting that books found to contain “sexually explicit content” be removed from the education of their children. The list includes a number of Holocaust-related books, such as The Diary of Anne Frank, The Book Thief, Number the Stars, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
The JCRC recognizes the concerns and rights of individual parents to be involved in deciding what books and other educational resources are appropriate for their individual children. The Commonwealth of Virginia, local governments, and school boards have laws and rules in place that allow parents to keep books they find objectionable from being shared and taught to their children. These parental rights do not give a few people the right to ban books for all students.
We wholeheartedly believe that our students deserve to read and learn in books and literature about themselves and others who may be different, which promotes a more inclusive and understanding community. The extent to which we can teach our students to think critically about our past, present, and future will correspond to how potently they can help create a more equitable future. For the sake of the Jewish people and all members of our community, we condemn book banning in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
To stay abreast of this situation, follow the Jewish Community Relations Committee’s Facebook page, or contact our Director of Jewish Community Relations, Basya Gartenstein, at BGartenstein@JewishRichmond.org.
At the time of this post, the following community partners have signed on in support of this statement:
Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity
Rabbi Scott M. Nagel, The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Ahabah, Richmond, Virginia
Rabbi Michael Knopf of Temple Beth-El
Rabbi Dennis Beck Berman, Congregation Brith Achim
Clergy & Citizens Against Racism
Initiatives of Change, USA
Rabbi Patrick Beaulier of Kehillah
Rabbi Dovid Asher of Keneseth Beth Israel
Virginia Holocaust Museum
Virginia Department of Education
Book Banning in the News
- Proposal to do away with school libraries in Spotsylvania County, Virginia (The Virginian-Pilot, April 3, 2023)
- Additional information about the proposal to do away with school libraries in Spotsylvania County, Virginia (The74, April 11, 2023)
- Book bans in Virginia Beach (The Virginian-Pilot, April 22, 2023)
- Book bans in Hanover County (Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 30, 2023)
- Full List of 21 Books Banned by Virginia School Board (Newsweek, January 20, 2023)
- National context and attempts to ban books throughout 2022 (New York Times, March 23, 2023)
American Library Association
Adopted June 25, 1953, by the ALA Council and the AAP Freedom to Read Committee; amended January 28, 1972; January 16, 1991; July 12, 2000; June 30, 2004.