Rise of antisemitism in school scares Jewish students


Photo by Rae Weinstein

12th grade English classes watch a video about the Holocaust created by the Holocaust Museum to contribute fighting antisemitism on Feb. 14.

Acts of antisemitism have recently been occurring all over the county and in our own school. The county as a whole hasn’t done anything to put a stop to the issue, after releasing a single statement after the first incident. This school has begun providing Holocaust education to help put a stop to the issue, and make Jewish students feel safe in school.

In 10th grade, students read a book called Night, an autobiographical account of Elie Wiesel’s life surviving Nazi concentration camps. Paired with reading this book is listening to Jewish students from each branch of Judaism (reform, conservative, and orthodox) and learning about their traditions. This year’s senior class didn’t have the opportunity to read Night, as their sophomore year was online due to Covid-19. As a result, seniors took part in the discussions about Judaism and the Holocaust in their English classes. However, to many Jewish students, myself included, this doesn’t feel like enough.

I would like to preface that we as Jewish people do not believe our pain and suffering is any worse or more important than any other minority group, we are not trying to play what people may call “oppression olympics.” However, antisemitism is an important issue that is not taken as seriously as acts of hate toward other groups. After reporting the swastikas seen on an art table, a teacher told me she didn’t realize it was that big of a deal, which is a problem. All we as Jewish students want is for our pain to be taken as seriously as others. And that comes with education.

While I appreciate the staff Restorative Justice committee for the education on the Holocaust that has occurred in the last month, we must teach that antisemitism isn’t just the Holocaust. Hate against Jewish people has been happening for thousands of years and while modern day antisemitism looks different than it did in Nazi Germany, much of the rhetoric is the same. We see politicians claiming Jewish people control the media and hear ridiculous claims such as the ownership of “space lasers.” We hear comments like “you have a big Jew nose” or “you look like a Jew” and we see videos of Jewish people all over the country being terrorized and being called the K word. We need to teach that these little jokes aren’t just jokes, and help people understand that saying them isn’t OK, but also that not speaking up when you hear it is just as bad.

Especially with the Israel-Palestine conflict being talked about in the media, antisemitism has become prominent on both sides of the political aisle. I believe it is important that we educate people on the issue, and how it relates to antisemitism.

The media has taken the word Zionism, the belief that a Jewish state should exist, and ran with it, saying anyone who is a zionist supports aparthied and genocide, which couldn’t be further from the truth, so antizionists are the “good guys”. The issue is complicated and nuanced, making it something the county should have students focus on when learning about current events. Education helps us better understand each other, and should help people understand different perspectives on the issue, which can help alleviate antisemitism, which people try to hide behind the label of anti zionism.

The county and the school needs to do a better job at educating people, not just on the Holocaust, but on current issues that plague the Jewish people and the centuries old issue of antisemitism, in order to help put a stop to hatred, because it is terrifying to feel that people all over the world, on all sides of the political spectrum, hate you because of your beliefs and ancestry.