The past several months have been extremely troubling for Jews living all over the world. The rise in Anti-Semitic attacks has risen dramatically and news stories which were once isolated events, are now happening much too frequently.
While we can all try to dismiss these tragic stories, the sad truth is that when these events take place we are all left at a loss of how to comprehend and understand how/why these things happen. If adults are not sure about where to turn, think about the kids. For children, who are the future of our people, it is even more important for them to know how to respond and deal with these events.
Yesterday, my organization, Bonim B’Yachad, together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sponsored a live webinar for Jewish students and educators in North America and Israel. The session was led by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director of Global Social Action. This event was attended by students and educators of more than 20 schools/organizations. During his presentation, Rabbi Cooper talked about the rise in Anti-Semitic activities, as well as the responsibilities of the younger generation. Rabbi Cooper referenced specific acts of violence such as the shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway. The fact that these attacks took place without warning showed that we are all vulnerable. That is why it is so important to work to combat these events. He talked about how important it was to educate the rest of the world with a true picture of our religion, and how we must strive to ensure that hate is not tolerated in any community or society. Students asked Rabbi Cooper several questions on topics ranging from responding to violence, to Anti-Semitic behaviors on college campuses. For most of the students in attendance, this was the first open and frank conversation that they were having on this subject.
Most would agree that it takes more than one discussion to provide education about Anti-Semitism. As we know from other topics, the more knowledge we give to our children, the more pro-active they can become. Many of our schools and youth organizations have gone through great lengths to add subjects such as BDS, Israel Advocacy, and Jewish history to their learning goals. The same needs to be happening with Anti-Semitism as well. As Rabbi Cooper pointed out, the people that truly hate us for being Jewish are not going to stop. Their views however are able to spread when others, who do not know the truth are easily convinced. As parents and educators, we must make sure that our children/students have the resources to properly combat Anti-Semitism.
The students who participated in yesterday’s webinar were able to start the conversation and were given the opportunity to speak to one of the world experts in this field. Thanks to expanding technology, connecting to resources has become increasingly easier. Our job is to make sure that these discussions and opportunities for learning are not only taking place once in a while, but are in fact a standard part of the education our children our receiving.