Pam Alcala
Jewish Educator, Aspiring Artist, and Hopeless Idealist

To our kids

I feel like we owe you an apology. But, at the same time, apologizing feels contradictory to all the work we have done to prepare you for life. Whether you are our biological children or our students, the priority has always been to prepare you for the rest of your life.

Let me explain.

We succeeded at teaching you to use your voice when you witness injustice, but we failed at modeling how to effectively do so.

We succeeded at teaching you that you should hold ground on your beliefs, but we failed at modeling where the line is when your beliefs infringe on others.

We succeeded at teaching you the importance of a wholesome education, but we failed at modeling how to successfully discern which sources are more reliable than others.

We succeeded at teaching you to go to your professors for answers when you don’t have them yourself, but we failed at modeling how to not blindly trust a degree at face value.

We succeeded at teaching you about free speech, but we failed at modeling that it comes at a price.

There are a few more successes and failures that I could list here for you, but I have a feeling you get where I am going with this.

What we are witnessing across college campuses today is a passionate reaction to a decades-long and complex conflict. After all, anti-war protests and peace movements have been an integral part of the American experience that spans generations, so it is no surprise that we see you, the generation with the unlimited access through social media, become so vocal about things you are so passionate about.

We were you once, tired of witnessing death and destruction. We witnessed wars;  loved ones go into battle and never return; first-hand accounts of atrocities experienced by our parents and grandparents as the world sought to exterminate them; witnessed our own governments indiscriminately go into countries and fight battles even when defeat seemed imminent. We were angry, too. We took to the streets, college campuses, even establishments in the middle of NYC to advocate for peace and equality.

Here is where we failed you. When we taught you to use your voice and fight for what you believe in, we blindly trusted that the world would remain the same. We did not take into account unlimited access to social media and the people that would use it to spread misinformation just to take advantage of your passionate soul. We did not take into account that, even after the world witnessed what took place during World War II, there would still be people out there who would hate us so much that they would continue to perpetuate antisemitic tropes. We thought that our activism would make the world a better place for you but forgot that bad people are still everywhere.

What is happening on college campuses today is not the peaceful activism that moves the world; it is the kind that perpetuates hate. We know you feel deeply that you are helping, but we need you to take a step back and read the story you are writing. This writer implores you to trade the signs and barricades for books and dialogue. I don’t expect you to agree with my stance, because I am choosing to believe that you are coming from a place of pain and frustration. However, and this is important that you hear: the last time the world cried against Jewish people, we were rounded up and killed. If your activism is for people to be able to live in peace in their land, then work with us to ensure that we model that peace. Don’t make the same mistakes we made by not modeling the whole picture.

About the Author
Pam is a Jewish Educator, Social Worker, and aspiring artist. She has spent her career working in congregational settings, DEI programming consulting, and global Jewish non-profit work. She has a passion for merging mental health, creative arts, and Jewish experiential education.
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