Rochester City School District Board of Education member replies to Parents Defending Education email inquiry with common anti-semitic claims about Jews’ role in slave trade


A Rochester City School District Board of Education member replied to an inquiry from Parents Defending Education with claims about Jews’ involvement in slavery that come directly from the Nation of Islam and are widely considered to be antisemitic.

Parents Defending Education contacted school board members of districts that participated in the Black Lives Matter at School’s Week of Action in February 2023 to ask whether they would continue to support the organization after it blamed Israel for Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks. Rochester City School District offers Black Lives Matter at School Week resource on its Restorative Practices website, Parents Defending Education previously documented

In response, the Rochester City School District Board member, Cynthia Elliott, recommended studying “the history of the Jewish nation and their involvement in slavery — financing the slave ships to bring Africans into the Americas and the Caribbeans.” 

Disproportionately blaming Jews for past atrocities, including the slave trade, is a common form of antisemitism. The specific trope that disproportionately castigates Jews for running or controlling the slave trade is often peddled by Black Nationalist groups like the Nation of Islam and its head, Louis Farrakhan. 

“As I said no one’s hands are clean,” the board member continued. “So while I don’t endorse many of the tenets by the Black Lives Matter organization, the slogan is paramount for the uplift of a people who this world castigates, marginalizes and kills every day.” 

Ten days after the terrorist attack, Black Lives Matter at School released a statement blaming “Israeli settler colonialism” for the terrorist attacks. The full statement is below: