“After Pittsburgh, I sometimes I feel unsafe as a Jew.”
“Why do some people rationalize anti-Semitism while others speak up and fight the same actions?”
“People don’t like Jews.”
Overheard as attendees shared in breakout sessions at the Anti-Semitism Summit: Navigate, Communicate, Advocate on January 6, 2019, these comments highlight the community need for this program presented by Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Temple Sinai, and JumpSpark in partnership with 17 Jewish community organizations.
In response to the tragic mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last fall, and the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents both in the southeast and nationally, the summit examined the reality of anti-Semitism and how to communicate and advocate for the world we want to see.
David Hoffman, ADL Assistant Regional Director, began the summit by presenting a common understanding of the term “anti-Semitism” and how hate can escalate from attitudes to actions to violence. The ADL plays a role in fighting all forms of hate, including anti-Semitism, and reports a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents locally and nationally, including in K-12 schools and college campuses.
“Until recently, I rarely heard from parents about anti-Semitic incidents,” said Temple Sinai’s Rabbi Brad Levenberg. “This year it has skyrocketed. People report everything from subtle bias to overt acts. Parents want to know if they are overreacting, but I usually find their instincts are spot on.”
Separate teen and adult breakout groups explored how to communicate within our families about anti-Semitism, and taught how to report and respond to bias, hatred and injustice, whether at school, online, or in the community.
In groups by grade, teens gained awareness of their personal experiences with anti-Semitism, discussed how anti-Semitism exists in their lives, and developed skills to respond to anti-Semitism throw role-playing exercises.
Many teens left saying they were surprised to learn their peers have had similar experiences and were motivated to speak up when they encounter acts of anti-Semitism.
“It’s eye-opening to see that so many people have experienced anti-Semitism and we are not alone,” said one teen.
With nearly 200 parents and teens participating in the event held at Temple Sinai, summit organizers had no idea the demand was so high for such an event. Kelly Cohen, JumpSpark Director, said, “As we see from the large crowd that came to the summit, when we create programs and opportunities that speak authentically to the needs of our community, people come!” •