The letter cites translated song lyrics included in one of the model lesson plans, in which a hip-hop artist raps, in Arabic, “For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded. For each greeting, a thousand houses were demolished. They use the press so they can manufacture.”
The reference to the press, the letter says, is “a classic antisemitic trope about Jewish control of the media.”
Committee members, some of whom have received hate mail since the documents were posted online, said they were committed to fighting anti-Semitism, and were shocked by the responses from some Jewish organizations. They pointed out that Jewish studies is not usually included under the ethnic studies umbrella, and that California law already requires instruction on the Holocaust and genocide.
At least one Jewish organization, the Bay Area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, has released a statement in support of the curriculum materials.
The State Board of Education has distanced itself from the documents and promised revisions. On Wednesday, the elected state superintendent, Tony Thurmond, a Democrat, said the curriculum should go beyond the four groups traditionally included in college ethnic studies departments, to include Jews and others.
The backlash has some proponents of ethnic studies worried about losing momentum. They cite research showing that ethnic studies classes in San Francisco public schools helped students improve their attendance and grades.
But Mr. Medina, the Democratic assemblyman, said, “It is more important to me that we get it right than we do it quickly.”
When he taught ethnic studies classes in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, his goal was not to create activists, he added. “My goal as a teacher was to leave students who could think for themselves.”