How I Realized Education is the Path to Peace (Part 2)

I am fortunate that I have not personally experienced much Antisemitism, despite some incidents. In Psychology class this year, a classmate was telling “Jew” jokes. I heard similar jokes in the past, but that was prior to my visit to Israel and long before I became involved with StandWithUs as the 2018-2019 High School Intern at my public school in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Until then, I never knew how to react to these kinds of jokes; I just knew I did not like them. This one, in particular, is quite popular. “What is the difference between a Jew and Harry Potter?” “Harry Potter made it out of the chamber.” I was disgusted. However, because I was trained by StandWithUs, I was prepared to react.

I remembered learning how important it is to stay calm in situations such as these. Nobody is going to listen to you, nor will they respect you, if you get too upset and yell.  With the tools I learned in the back of my mind, I responded calmly, but forcefully, “That is not funny. I have been to Auschwitz. I have seen a gas chamber. I have walked out of a gas chamber. Do you know how inhumane and cruel these mass murder machines were? Each chamber had the ability to kill up to 4,000 people each day. Do you want to see a picture?” As soon as I finished, my classmate instantly apologized, “Wow, I feel disgusting. I’m so sorry I said that. I will never say it again. Now I understand.” This brings me back to StandWithUs’ mission: education is the road to peace.

I know that not everyone loves Israel as much as I do. But, if I had to pick one lesson which I am most grateful for, it is that StandWithUs opened my eyes to how widespread anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, and anti-Israel sentiment is in our world today.

For example, I always knew that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) exists, but I had no idea how Antisemitic and how disruptive they can be.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “SJP is a network of pro-Palestinian student groups in the US which disseminate anti-Israel propaganda often laced with inflammatory and at times combative rhetoric. They are known for disrupting student-run pro-Israel events, distributing mock “apartheid walls” and distributing fake “eviction notices” to dramatize what they consider Israeli abuses of Palestinians”.

StandWithUs’ High School Internship provided me and my peers with the tools and confidence necessary to stand up to this hate when we enter college. Most importantly, the organization reassured us that they will always have our backs.

I cannot put into words how much I appreciate the privilege of interning with StandWithUs. I became proficient in life-long skills including public speaking and educating others. I will use these in college and throughout the rest of my life.

None of this would have been possible without Rayna Rose Exelbierd, the StandWithUs Southeast High School Director for many years. She was my biggest supporter and the glue that kept the region together. Thank you, Rayna, for inspiring us all to continue our hard work. 

Although my year as a high school intern is over, this is not the end. I will continue working with StandWithUs to combat anti-Israel rhetoric and Antisemitism in college and beyond.

If you are interested in learning more, email highschool@standwithus.com or go to www.standwithus.com and read about all that we do. If you are already involved with StandWithUs, please continue your support for this fantastic organization!

About the Author
Sydney is the 2018-2019 StandWithUs High School "Intern of the Year" for the Southeast region. She is passionate, motivated, and excited to continue sharing her love of Israel with others in university and beyond.
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