On January 24th, 2023, along with the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel of Westchester, and Congregation KTI, I hosted an event that aimed to bring more awareness to the rising issue of antisemitism in the United States, and how our community can look to combat this issue locally. The event was broken into two parts: a teen-only discussion and a panel with leading speakers in the fight against antisemitism in New York State: Scott Richman, director of Anti-Defamation League NY/NJ, and Rachel Klein, executive director of Hillel of Westchester.
The teen-only hour included a survey and discussion about the issues of antisemitism in our community and ways we could help each other to combat the issue. We heard a few students, some from Blind Brook, discuss their experiences of antisemitism in school, in Rye Brook, and with people who were unfamiliar with Jewish culture and the issues they face today. Along with this impactful discussion, Congregation KTI was able to gather some data about how prevalent antisemitism is in the community, how people experience it, and ways people have dealt with the issue.
The panel addressed several topics, including the trends associated with antisemitism on college campuses, ways Jewish students could remain involved in their community in college, and the important role of the community to stop the growth of antisemitism. With reports of antisemitic hate crimes quadrupling in under a decade, Jewish students need to become aware of the recent protests and crimes that have occurred on campuses, and to remain involved with their Hillel in case they ever encounter this issue. The biggest takeaway from Richman’s remarks was the importance of advocating for more Holocaust education in schools, and ensuring that Jewish students are able to speak up when faced with these issues of hate.
But the event did not cover only the bad. College provides an opportunity to be a part of a smaller, tight-knit community that cherishes diversity, and provides students with the opportunity to learn about other cultures and the problems they face as well. If students learn to become more empathetic to others, and look out for other cultural groups, a more unified and hate-free community will emerge on campus.
While this event took several months of planning to complete, it was worthwhile. And there are many opportunities for teens to make an immediate impact without investing so much in planning time. Online courses offered by the ADL and other organizations combating hate give students the ability to speak to their school and fellow community members to make an immediate difference. I was able to bring together a group of people who were not very aware of the issues discussed in the presentation beforehand, to become more aware of the rise of antisemitism. If more teens continue to participate in this kind of advocacy work, this impact can become exponential.