ARTICLE

Addressing Antisemitic Hate With Students

As we mourn yet another antisemitic attack, we’re reminded of the important role educators play in pushing back against hate and violence.

This weekend, on the last day of Passover—and six months after the shooting that killed 11 and injured six worshipers at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh—a man walked into a California synagogue with an assault weapon and opened fire. He killed a woman who was trying to protect her rabbi.

We know antisemitism is on the rise in the United States—while the FBI reports that all hate crimes across the U.S. rose in 2017, antisemitism saw the greatest increase

We also know that the man arrested for the attack was active in online white supremacist communities. 

We know that he published an “open letter” online, calling last month’s attack on two New Zealand mosques, when a man killed 50 people, a “catalyst.”

We know he was a college student. We know he was 19 years old. We know it wasn’t that long ago that he sat in someone’s high school classroom, walked down someone’s middle school hallways.

We know that we can’t get used to this.

But we also know that if change is to come, educators will be the ones who help to usher it in.

A few years ago, in the wake of a string of antisemitic attacks, we shared encouragement and resources with educators. It breaks our hearts to share them again. 

The excerpt below is from “Learn Something New Every Day,” written just after the 2017 attack on the Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia.

While the news is at once disheartening and terrifying, Teaching Tolerance is firm in our belief that inclusive, anti-bias education is the antidote to the fear and hatred that leads to violence. TT was founded as a preventative program; we fight hate by equipping educators with the tools they need to reach students when they are young. By giving children opportunities to experience and embrace diversity via the curriculum and by teaching social emotional competencies like empathy, individual educators literally have the power to change thousands of lives—and to intervene when they see a child drifting toward the hollow messages pedaled by hatemongers. 

 

Clearly, this work is more necessary than ever—and clearly we must include Jewish voices, perspectives and experiences in our teaching if we are to be responsive to the current climate of intimidation in our country. 

 

Here are a few resources to help you teach about Jewish identities and antisemitism in your classroom or at your school: 

 

It is only by committing to justice, kindness and respect that our work can move forward and help our young people grow up confident that those who look, love or worship differently than they do pose no threat to them personally or to the American way of life. 
The value of pluralism is an idea many of us take for granted, but—as the events of the last weeks and months have shown—we cannot afford to assume that others do.