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January 6, 2016 1

Empowering Jewish Youth to Respond to Anti-Semitism

USYLast week, over 700 Jew­ish teens from across the United States and Canada gath­ered in Bal­ti­more, MD as part of United Syn­a­gogue Youth’s Inter­na­tional Con­ven­tion.  The Anti-Defamation League par­tic­i­pated in the con­ven­tion as a pro­gram part­ner to edu­cate and empower the stu­dents to respond to anti-Semitism. At a time when global anti-Semitism is on the rise, col­lege cam­puses are rife with anti-Israel bias and Jew­ish youth reg­u­larly hear insen­si­tive com­ments about Jews and Judaism, this work is more impor­tant than ever.

Eighty teens par­tic­i­pated in three work­shops over the course of two days, shar­ing their own expe­ri­ences with anti-Semitism, learn­ing the his­tory behind anti-Semitic stereo­types and myths, and prac­tic­ing new strate­gies to respond to anti-Semitism in their every­day lives.  Hear­ing from their peers around the coun­try, stu­dents were able to gain aware­ness about the preva­lence of anti-Semitism.  As one stu­dent com­mented, “I learned that there is more anti-Semitism in schools than I thought there was.”

Stu­dents shared sto­ries of pen­nies being thrown at them, swastikas appear­ing in their schools and hear­ing anti-Semitic “jokes” from their peers.  Through inter­ac­tive exer­cises, role play­ing sce­nar­ios and con­ver­sa­tions with their peers, the stu­dents gained strate­gies to respond and explored what it means for them as Jew­ish teens to stand up for them­selves in the face of anti-Semitism. They also dis­cussed and devel­oped strate­gies to respond to anti-Semitism as it relates to Israel and talked about how these sit­u­a­tions are sim­i­lar to and dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional forms of anti-Semitism.

At the end of the pro­gram, the stu­dents shared one thing they will do dif­fer­ently as a result of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the work­shop. Col­lec­tively, their responses demon­strate the com­mit­ment and power of teens to make a dif­fer­ence in the fight against anti-Semitism:

  • “I will tell friends that anti-Semitism is unacceptable.”
  • “I will be a big­ger advo­cate for the Jew­ish peo­ple and Israel.”
  • “Inform my friends about the facts and what’s really going on”
  • “Point out and explain anti-Semitism when I see it”
  • “I will stand up for the Jew­ish peo­ple if some­thing anti-Semitic is said.”
  • “Respond calmly and in an infor­ma­tive man­ner to anti-Semitic stereotypes”
  • “I will edu­cate oth­ers on how to com­bat anti-Semitism.”
  • “Speak up against insen­si­tive jokes”

The work­shops drew upon the Anti-Defamation League’s edu­ca­tion pro­gram­ming to address anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias with teens and young adults across the United States.   Since the pro­gram was first offered in the 1980’s, ADL has reached over 55,000 teens with knowl­edge, skills and resources to respond to anti-Semitism.