“After Pittsburgh, I sometimes I feel unsafe as a Jew.”

“Why do some people rationalize anti-Semitism while others speak up and fight the same actions?”

“People don’t like Jews.”

Overheard as attendees shared in breakout sessions at the Anti-Semitism Summit: Navigate, Communicate, Advocate on January 6, 2019, these comments highlight the community need for this program presented by Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Temple Sinai, and JumpSpark in partnership with 17 Jewish community organizations.

In response to the tragic mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last fall, and the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents both in the southeast and nationally, the summit examined the reality of anti-Semitism and how to communicate and advocate for the world we want to see.

David Hoffman, ADL Assistant Regional Director, began the summit by presenting a common understanding of the term “anti-Semitism” and how hate can escalate from attitudes to actions to violence. The ADL plays a role in fighting all forms of hate, including anti-Semitism, and reports a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents locally and nationally, including in K-12 schools and college campuses.

“Until recently, I rarely heard from parents about anti-Semitic incidents,” said Temple Sinai’s Rabbi Brad Levenberg. “This year it has skyrocketed. People report everything from subtle bias to overt acts. Parents want to know if they are overreacting, but I usually find their instincts are spot on.”

Separate teen and adult breakout groups explored how to communicate within our families about anti-Semitism, and taught how to report and respond to bias, hatred and injustice, whether at school, online, or in the community.

In groups by grade, teens gained awareness of their personal experiences with anti-Semitism, discussed how anti-Semitism exists in their lives, and developed skills to respond to anti-Semitism throw role-playing exercises.

Many teens left saying they were surprised to learn their peers have had similar experiences and were motivated to speak up when they encounter acts of anti-Semitism.

“It’s eye-opening to see that so many people have experienced anti-Semitism and we are not alone,” said one teen.

With nearly 200 parents and teens participating in the event held at Temple Sinai, summit organizers had no idea the demand was so high for such an event. Kelly Cohen, JumpSpark Director, said, “As we see from the large crowd that came to the summit, when we create programs and opportunities that speak authentically to the needs of our community, people come!” 

Visit our Resource Page ›  for tips and information from the Anti-Semitism Summit.
Lili Stadler

Whenever prompted with the topic of sexuality and gender identification, I had never thought twice. I would simply brush off the subject since I had always been confident in who I was and who I felt that I was: a girl. I always thought that was a confusing conversation topic, thinking that there was not much to discuss. More clearly said, sexuality was always something simple to me. When preparing for the conversation of gender and sexuality with Dr. Joy Ladin and my peers of the Strong Women Fellowship, I did not believe my thoughts would change. But, seeing different perspectives and hearing the struggles and stories of my peers completely altered what being a “man” or “women” could be.

When you look up the word “woman” in the dictionary, you will find the definition, “an adult human female” or “a wife, girlfriend, or lover”, plus other varieties of that nature. But, I have realized that the dictionary definition of this word barely scratches the surface of what being a woman actually means.

When finishing her empowering story of bravery and transition, Dr. Joy Ladin prompted me and my peers with a question: “What was your experience of growing up as a girl?” To my surprise, the majority of responses to the question, including mine, were negative. We discussed in our conversation the topics that us, as teenage girls in the modern world, face, most of which were feelings of adversity and fear. A few examples included memories of my peers’ parents telling them to change because they were “showing too much”, them getting dress code violations for their bra straps and thighs showing, and their constant fear of slut shaming.

“What was your experience growing up as a girl?”

To my surprise, the majority of responses to the question, including mine, were negative.

Hearing these things, at first, made me feel comforted that I was not the only one who had gone through these things. But, after a while of discussion, I realized how negative this conversation was. I knew we all love being women, but the growing sense of negativity made me feel unsettled. From here, the conversation unintentionally turned into one about what it means to be a woman.

Joy started off this conversation with the topic of gender versus sexuality. She explained to us that these two things do not need to go hand in hand, nor do they have the same connotation to every individual. Once again, this was something I had never thought about before, so my mindset was transformed. I realized that all of those negative memories of growing up a girl made up who we had become. With further discussion, I was inspired that gender and sexuality are not as simple as I thought, and that two people with totally different experiences of being a women could still be defined as one.

We should not be defined by who we are categorized to be, but who we feel we are.

The beauty of the hardships of growing up in fear and shame is that we learn to overcome it and hopefully become who we feel we are inside. The story of Dr. Ladin, although completely unique to the stories of everyone participating in the conversation, led us to the conclusion that being a woman and growing up as a woman can be defined in an infinite amount of ways. We should not be defined by who we are categorized to be, but who we feel we are. •

by Nina Rubin, first published by Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta ››

 

“After Pittsburgh, I sometimes I feel unsafe as a Jew.”

 “My neighbor believes that all Jews are liberals.”

“My friends can’t understand why I don’t believe in Jesus.”

Those are a few of the comments we heard at JumpSpark’s Atlanta Anti-Semitism Summit: Navigate, Communicate, Advocate, a joint program with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Temple Sinai in partnership with more than a dozen Jewish organizations.

Sparked by the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, and the serious uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in our area and around the world, the Summit unpacked what we mean when we talk about anti-Semitism. Separate breakout groups for teens and parents focused on how to communicate within our families about anti-Semitism, and how to report and respond to bias, hatred and injustice, whether at school, online, or in the community. 

“Until recently, I rarely heard from parents about anti-Semitic incidents,” said Temple Sinai’s Rabbi Brad Levenberg. “This year it has skyrocketed. People report everything from subtle bias to overt acts. Parents want to know if they are overreacting, but I usually find their instincts are spot on.”

Nearly 200 parents and teens participated in the Summit, and follow-up discussions are planned. Kelly Cohen, Director of JumpSpark — Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement, said, “As we see from the large crowd that came to the Summit, when we create programs and opportunities that speak authentically to the needs of our community, people come!” •