How a school banner ended up defining the essence of an ADL mission to Chile
“I am my brother’s keeper,” reads the sign at the entrance of one of the few Jewish schools in Chile, and one of the best schools in the country. While I had visited the school many times as an ambassador, this was the first time I noticed the sign, and it touched me.
On this trip, I was in Chile in my new role as Senior Vice President of ADL, accompanied by a high-level delegation of volunteer leaders and our CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt.
So many times in the past, I had met students from different grades at the three Jewish schools in the country, but this visit resonated differently with me. “We rather not wear our uniform outside the school, ״a 16-year-old student told us. “We encounter antisemitism, especially when we have sports matches against other schools,” said her friend. Another student added: “I don’t think you can eradicate antisemitism. Hopefully we can moderate it a bit.”
I wanted to hug each and every one of these young people and tell them: You are not alone!
And it is true, they are not alone, because Jewish students in the United States, Europe, in other Latin American countries and beyond sadly feel the same way. They ask themselves whether practicing their Judaism —be it religious or cultural – in public, freely and openly is worth the “risk,” or whether it is better to live “quietly,” concealing their Magen David (Star of David) and kippah.
“When you speak about antisemitism in this country, what do you mean?” one of the Chilean authorities asked us during a meeting.
We mean these young people hiding their Jewish school uniforms; students who feel harassed in their universities just because they are Jewish; their Jewish professors, who prefer not to identify themselves publicly as Zionists to avoid being discriminated against; the young Jewish woman who was thrown out of a café in Providencia for wearing a Star of David necklace; and the Jews of Temuco who are often confronted with antisemitic graffiti in the streets of that beautiful city. Not to mention the allegations of dual loyalty faced by Jewish politicians, the harassment suffered by community leaders, and so many other such examples.
Hatred of Jews is millennia old, but has not changed much. For centuries, Jewish communities were subjected to accusations that they drank the blood of Christian children. Those have now evolved into accusations that Israelis drink the blood of Palestinian children. The myth that Jews control the banks was expanded to the myth that we control the whole world. Among some human rights warriors, it may no longer be acceptable to blame “the Jews,” but it is perfectly legitimate, and even encouraged, to attack “the Zionists” for the world’s problems. The essence of antisemitism has not changed: it is the same hatred, the same prejudices, and the same discrimination against individuals, groups, and institutions just for being Jewish.
Yes, ADL’s American delegation went to Chile to learn about the challenges facing Chilean Jews, but also to experience all that is beautiful about Chile’s robust Jewish community. It is a proud, Zionist community of approximately 18,000 people that wants to live in peace. We visited the Museum of Memory and the Jewish Museum and met a dozen Jewish NGOs that contribute to Chilean society, from firefighters to doctors, all proud Jewish Chilean citizens.
Our delegation also met government officials including ministers, senators, congresspeople, and members of the broader civil society.
Our message to the Jewish community was this: Beyond the cooperation agreements we signed and will sign; beyond the proposals for legislation and the educational programs we promote, we want you to know: You are not alone. Together we can overcome hatred, lightening the darkness with the glimmer of our united light.
We are, all of us, our brothers’, and sisters’ keepers.