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A Deep Dive Into Cyberbullying 

By Rich Tenorio 

Bullying is bad enough, but with kids on social media all the time, cyberbullying can be just as bad, if not worse. And it’s sometimes antisemitic in character, depending on the target. 

“A lot of bullying and cyberbullying go hand-in-hand,” said Jinnie Spiegler, director of curriculum and training for the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s rare when bullying in-person does not make its way to the digital world. Usually, it’s both.” However, she noted, cyberbullying “is unique from other bullying and can be particularly harmful.” 

WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?

Occurring in digital spaces such as a computer or smartphone, cyberbullying includes hurtful comments, posting private information, posing as someone else to harm their reputation and forcible exclusion from groups online, she said. 

Cyberbullying has increased dramatically in recent years and poses added dangers for tweens and teens. Unlike traditional schoolyard bullying, in which there is some relief when the school day ends, cyberbullying can occur at all hours, limiting the ability of trusted adults, such as parents and teachers, to notice and/or help. Instead of private locations such as the back of a classroom or school bus, cyberbullying can manifest itself through public posts online, potentially harming someone’s reputation for years—including, ironically, the individual committing the bullying. It can persist on digital devices indefinitely, unless a social media platform removes it. 

The Cyberbullying Research Center tracks the phenomenon among 12- to 17-year-olds. The overall cyberbullying victimization rate among that demographic stood at 18.8% in 2007, the year Apple rolled out the iPhone. By 2019, the rate had risen to 36.5%; in 2021, it increased yet again, to 45.5%, nearly half of young people in that age bracket. 

Spiegler said the ADL’s view of bullying draws upon common characteristics—it is repeated, threatening behavior, committed by one or more individuals with a perceived power differential over their target. That power differential can include hostile stances toward marginalized groups, such as Jewish, Black or LGBTQIA+ communities. For example, read what happens when antisemitism and anti-LGBTQIA+ hate converge. It is this identity-based bullying and cyberbullying that the ADL is marshaling its resources against. 

“We tend to use examples like antisemitic cyberbullying, racist cyberbullying or bullying,” Spiegler said. “You’ll see this a lot, especially in the teenage years, bullying targeted toward a particular group or person. A lot of times, what they say is racist or antisemitic or homophobic, things like that.” 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT CYBERBULLYING 

Although cyberbullying can be dismaying, like bullying in general, its targets do have options, from managing their settings online to asking that social media platforms remove hateful content. 

Spiegler’s suggestions: 
  • Be an ally, supporting the target even if you don’t know them. 
  • Don’t participate in cyberbullying if it comes up. Other people will notice your nonparticipation, which may lead them to do the same. 
  • Tell the oppressor or oppressors to stop, either publicly or privately. 

Remember that you don’t have to confront the person doing the cyberbullying and that this is often the safest approach. When it comes to directly communicating with a cyberbully, she recalls a lesson from her anti-bias work: “If there’s antisemitic or racist remarks, why are you going to feed into that?” Instead, she counseled, “Understand where the person is as an individual [and don’t] feed into that kind of groupthink.”

In general, she said, “There are strategies for staying safe online. Don’t respond, save screenshots if you need them later, reporting them to trusted adults.” And, she said, “you can report abuse to the companies,” whether it’s Facebook, X or even a Nintendo or Sony Playstation game. (Read more about why reporting antisemitism matters.)

“As kids get older,” she said, “they’re less and less likely influenced by a parent or trusted adult. Young people have to help each other move from bystanders to allies.” 

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org.

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How To Teach Kids About the Painful History of Swastikas

By Kara Baskin

Swastikas have become sadly ubiquitous—as graffiti in schools, cemeteries, on bridges and flags. In response, Lappin Foundation just launched a moving short film, “Swastika – Symbol of Hate,” to teach middle- and high-schoolers about the true, brutal meaning behind the symbol.  

Most importantly, they hear from Holocaust survivors Magda Bader and Dr. Hans Fisher, whose lived experiences crystallize the terror and pain that the swastika provokes.  

“We were given orders to get out of the cattle cars fast, and we were told that we would see each other in a voice that you try to believe …. I was holding onto one of my sister’s and my mother’s hand. Even though I just turned 14, I looked 10 or 12. I was attached to my mother. Because of the orders, and you were told you’d see each other, I let my mother’s hand go. … That’s the last time I saw my mother,” Bader recalls. 

It’s important to know the history and what to do when you see a swastika. Lappin Foundation executive director Deborah Coltin shared more about the new film, which comes with a guide for educators.

What inspired the video? 

What inspired the video is, sadly, the number of incidents involving swastika graffiti in our communities. Over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly invited to schools where swastikas appear to do a lesson about its meaning. In the beginning, it was high schools. And then it was middle schools. And then, last year, I was invited to a school with younger children in grades four to six. And that’s really troubling.  

I thought, “How do you begin the conversation?” I was searching for a video, because sometimes that’s a good opener. There was absolutely nothing that I felt was age-appropriate. I felt there was a real need for it, especially geared to middle school ages. Where did the symbol come from? What does it mean today, and why is it so upsetting? I also thought, if I could have Holocaust survivors talk about that piece of it, what a wonderful way to preserve their memory and have them impart a lesson to the students. And I believe that the film accomplishes that in 7-plus short minutes. 

How did you pull these components together? The film is short, but it’s impressive, and it’s powerful.  

I knew I wanted a simple, straightforward history. I’d been working with survivors Magda Bader and Dr. Hans Fisher. Both of them come from a very different experience. Magda survived Auschwitz. Hans was a passenger on the MS St. Louis [a ship that left Germany in 1939 to escape rising antisemitism]. So, he was the students’ age, and he escaped. He calls himself an escapee of the Holocaust.  

Their messages are so important. Sometimes, a swastika appears in a school, and then there’s a reaction from parents and the community, with all good intentions, but I don’t know how much education actually goes into teaching them about the symbol. I think that’s the missing piece. Our kids’ worlds are full of symbols. They communicate with emojis. Symbols evoke emotion. And the swastika represents the most evil time in humanity.  

This suggestion came from a student: Schools could use it as part of their orientation. They hear about bullying. They hear about all other kinds of name-calling. And so, because of the prevalent rise in antisemitism in our country, our students should be taught what this is and why it’s bad. They’re not going to get it by osmosis. And I believe this film is one way to do that. 

Any guidance on contextualizing the video for various age groups? 

It’s for middle school and older, for sure, and, with great care, older elementary students. Our teachers’ guide provides background, a synopsis and how teachers can introduce the film. And for teachers themselves who might not have background on the Holocaust, I provide resources for them as well, in addition to full-length interviews with Hans Fisher and Magda Bader. In addition, if educators want to learn more about the swastika and do a deeper dive, I provide resources for that. 

My older son is in middle school, and we often hear about swastika graffiti there. Why? What inspires this among kids? 

I don’t know what triggers it, but I don’t believe there’s been enough education proactively, preventatively, about what the swastika is. I believe students who do it know that, when it’s discovered, it’s something that gets a reaction out of adults. That’s just conjecture on my part. But I don’t believe there’s been enough education—straightforward, clear, simple, at their level—about what this is.  

If you were to summarize the film and its effect in a sentence, what would you say? 

I hope students will have felt something: the pain of the survivors, how devastating the Holocaust was and to have the awareness and the knowledge of what the symbol means. My hope is that they are able to articulate that this is a symbol of hatred and destruction. If they can walk away with that, I think the goal has been achieved. 

Learn more about what teens really think about antisemitism.

Kara Baskin is the parenting writer for JewishBoston.com. She is also a regular contributor to The Boston Globe and a contributing editor at Boston Magazine. She has worked for New York Magazine and The New Republic, and helped to launch the now-defunct Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Email her at kara@jewishboston.com. 

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Organizations Fighting Antisemitism Receive Grants From CJP

Next month we mark the five-year anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre, and the fight against Jewish hate continues. Antisemitism is intensifying across the country, with a marked surge in bomb threats and swatting attacks of Jewish institutions, extremists publicly gathering in communities, the highest number of reported antisemitic incidents, and the spread of antisemitic propaganda on social media. But at the same time, mainstream public conversation on antisemitism has shifted significantly over the past five years. With the first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism being released and strong displays of cross-community solidarity, we collectively must meet this moment to strengthen and empower the Jewish community to advance innovative solutions and collaborations.  

CJP’s groundbreaking new fighting antisemitism initiative has recently launched to increase our local efforts and resources on antisemitism and to facilitate a stronger collective effort centered on collaboration, coordination, and partnership in a way that meets the urgent needs in our Greater Boston community. 

The initiative will be moving forward work across CJP’s 5-Point Plan to combat antisemitism, raise public awareness, increase community engagement, deepen allyship across communities, increase educational resources, and strengthen communal security. Following the successful launch of our public awareness campaign, Face Jewish Hate, CJP is proud to announce our inaugural and initial grants allocated to strategically implement Year 1 priority areas of the 5-Point Plan. 

They include:  

ADL New England to drive forward increased incident reporting and response, expand education programs in schools and campuses, and bridge building work between Jewish and Black communities.  

“Since 1913, ADL has empowered our community to confront antisemitism through our mission to ‘stop the defamation of the Jewish people and security justice and fair treatment to all.’  This Plan allows us to provide our community with tools to confront antisemitism, and expand our incident response, vital in the wake of recent swatting attacks. We will deepen our education and outreach to schools, campuses, and the workplace as we build allies in the fight against antisemitism.” 

JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) of Boston to advance community and government relations at the state and municipal levels to address antisemitism. 

“JCRC exists because our network of organizations and leaders believe that the safety and the interests of our Jewish community can only be achieved – at least in part – through our engagement in, presence in, and relationships in Boston’s broader civic space. Our work as JCRC is the weaving of networks of relationship – within and beyond the Jewish community – to facilitate pathways for articulating and advancing our shared interests, including working in allyship to fight antisemitism and hatred in all its forms. This plan supports the JCRC network to invest in the work of building and being allies with others in our region, advocating on matters of security to our state and local officials, and working together to ensure that Jewish identity and experience are represented without bias in our public schools.”  

American Jewish Committee (AJC) of New England to amplify their work with diplomats, elected officials, and interfaith leaders at the local level to address antisemitism. 

“The proliferation of antisemitism in New England and across the country is an historic challenge. Fortunately, unlike in past eras, we have the wherewithal to meet this challenge. What it requires is sustained strategic focus and a mobilized Jewish community. We are glad to work with CJP and other organizations from across our community to coordinate and amplify the work we do.  In this way, we will steadily work to mitigate the dangers posed by anti-Jewish activism and ensure a healthy future for our Jewish community.” 

JOIN for Justice to launch the SEA (Study, Engage, Act) Change program for congregations in the Greater Boston area on racial justice and deepening allyship. 

“To face the scourge of antisemitism, we won’t be satisfied by asking people to stand with the Jewish community after we are attacked.  One critical component needs to be developing the leadership of Jews, at the grass roots level, across all races and identities, to build relationships with people across all religions, races, and identities.  Then, they can stand together, as allies, with the power to fight all hatreds and oppressions and build a more just Greater Boston where communities unite to stop oppression before it happens.  We’re thankful for CJP’s vision and leadership in enacting this comprehensive plan.” 

Facing History and Ourselves to significantly increase the availability of content, resources, and professional development for Greater Boston educators on Holocaust education and antisemitism:  

“We are grateful to CJP for convening organizations from across the Greater Boston community to combat antisemitism. The education pillar of this work is a critical aspect in helping students become compassionate and engaged upstanders who understand the importance of their choices. The only means to a better tomorrow is by working on today.  We, at Facing History and Ourselves, continue to effectuate change by helping educators establish inclusive and reflective classroom community that can thereby provide space to combat prejudice, stereotypes, and bigotry.” 

Tribe Talk to increase and deepen educational resources and programs for pre-college students on antisemitism. 

Lappin Foundation to support teen antisemitism work. 

Boston University Hillel to continue its antisemitism initiative as a potential scalable model for the broader community. 

CJP is thrilled to roll out the grant funding to these partners and to coordinate this work. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to work to amplify and measure the impact of this work in our efforts to strengthen the tools for our community to combat antisemitism. 

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Fighting Antisemitism 101

By Rich Tenorio 

At Brandeis University, the campus Hillel chapter found a way to connect leaders of student groups with Israel and the Palestinian territories—through a 10-day trip to both areas earlier this year. 

“Part of the trip was to learn about the conflict and the region,” said Brandeis Hillel executive director Seth Winberg. “It was also to create really genuine connections and friendships between students of different backgrounds.” 

Such connections may prove invaluable beyond the trip, extending into the academic year. 

“If and when an issue will happen, there are existing relationships among the student leaders,” Winberg said. “I think it’s really helpful.” 

The leaders who went on the trip included students from Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Black and Asian backgrounds. Forging strong and lasting relationships among diverse populations is one way that campus Hillels are combating antisemitism and encouraging allyship as the 2023-2024 academic year begins. 

Although campus Hillels are focused on holding events to welcome Jewish students to campus, from bagel brunches to Shabbat services to High Holiday plans, members of the international organization are aware that in some cases over recent years, campus climates have been inhospitable to Jewish students, and are preparing for such incidents on a contingency basis. 

Miriam Berkowitz Blue, executive director of the Hillel Council of New England, said that her organization is prepared to help students deal with a gamut of inhospitable experiences should they arise on campus. The Hillel Council of New England works directly with six colleges and universities in the Boston area, including four in the city itself—Boston College, Emerson College, Simmons University and Suffolk University—and two in the surrounding area—Bentley University and Curry College. The council also helps student-led Hillel chapters at three additional universities—UMass Boston, Salem State University and Lesley University. 

“A lot of individual outreach on so many positions is through individual counseling,” she said, adding that through such counseling, students “know where they can go to if, God forbid, something happens. An advisor is their first point of contact for an antisemitic incident—unfortunately, this is 2023—a billboard being vandalized, social media bullying or harassment, and also, of course, anti-Israel bullying in the classroom.” 

In October 2021, Hillel International partnered with the Anti-Defamation League on a survey of antisemitism among Jewish college students nationwide. The survey found that 32% of respondents had experienced antisemitism personally on campus. Such experiences included students facing blame for Israeli government actions on the basis of their individual Jewish identity (12%).  

The survey reported that incidents of physical threat or attack were the lowest type of antisemitism personally experienced by students (1% each). However, security issues remain a concern for local Hillels. Brandeis’ Winberg said that there are security preparations in place for High Holiday observances for the upcoming year 5784, including through greeters who are either students or Hillel staff members. 

“People who know the community, who’s supposed to be coming, are often Hillel staff and students,” he noted. “The right balance is ‘open and welcome’ with ’prudent and safe.’” 

Reflecting concerns over antisemitism on campus, three separate constituencies were called upon by percentages of Jewish students in the survey to further address the issue—student governments (32%), campus employees (27%) and faculty (25%). Berkowitz Blue wants Greater Boston Jewish students to understand the existing resource they have in Hillel. 

“The important point,” she said, is for students “to know they have a support system. We work closely with the administration. We’re a sounding board that gives [students] resources to, number one, build relationships that cultivate their own positive Jewish student experience.” 

Relationship-building can benefit constituencies other than students. For instance, Hillel professionals can reach out to colleagues of other faiths on campus. 

“It’s very important to have them as partners and colleagues, to show up for them if something happens, such as an Islamophobic event or an attack on a person of color or a multicultural space,” Berkowitz Blue said. “It’s important for us … to be seen as allies, not just because it’s the right thing to do.” As she explained, “How can we expect anyone to stand up for us if we don’t do it for them?” 

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org.

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Allyship and the Work Ahead: Reflections From Washington, D.C.

By Melissa Garlick, Senior Director of Combating Antisemitism and Building Civic Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies

On Saturday, August 26, 2023, CJP partnered with ADL New England to travel to D.C. to stand in solidarity with communities across the country for the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At the same time as we were marching, singing, and chanting, Black people were being gunned down and killed in Jacksonville, Florida, in a racially motivated attack. 

The juxtaposition of themes of survival, resilience, and determination alongside the very painful reminder of the work ahead resonate deeply with me as a Jew and are exactly why I am so committed to deepening allyship as central to CJP’s work to fight antisemitism. As Reverend Jamal Harrison Bryant put it in his speech: “We are not the generation that is going to sit down and be quiet. If you don’t believe me, take a one-way trip to Montgomery, Alabama, and there you will find out that no weapon born against us will be able to prosper … 60 years later, we’re still not free, but we know how to last.” 

In the Jewish community, we understand all too well that racist, antisemitic, and extremist violence are intended to push us into the realm of despair and silence. We stand on the shoulders of prior generations who bravely gave their hearts, souls, and lives to democracy and freedom for us to continue that fight. And we intimately understand that fighting antisemitism cannot be done in isolation from the struggle for racial justice. That the only way we are going to achieve our shared vision is to do it arm in arm. 

CJP’s work to fight antisemitism is dedicated to the vision that our work now can inspire and empower future generations to ensure freedom and equality for all. And the vision that future generations can live and pray without the threat to physical safety and security. 

In the meantime, we march on and we push forward: loudly, proudly, and together.  

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Listen In: How To Respond to Antisemitism

Melissa Garlick, Senior Director, Combatting Antisemitism and Building Civic Engagement, talks on Movin’ and Groovin’ with Ellen Kagan about antisemitism: what it is and how to respond. Melissa also talks about the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism that the White House shared, which is its first national plan ever directly addressing Jewish hate.  

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Teen Hiked 275 Miles to Combat Antisemitism


By Kara Baskin

While some high schoolers were kicking off their summer by sleeping in, Arlington High School rising senior and athlete Cooper Katzman was hiking 275 miles to raise money for the Anti-Defamation League. From June 26 until July 4, he walked Vermont’s Long Trail—often in the soaking rain—from Canada all the way to Massachusetts.

He dedicated each day of the journey to a horror caused by antisemitism, from Brighton Rabbi Shlomo Noginski’s 2021 stabbing to Pittsburgh’s 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. While Katzman initially set out to raise $1,800, he collected over $6,000. I spoke to him about the emotionally and physically transformative trek.

How and why did you decide to embark on this journey? I bet a lot of people your age would be pretty overwhelmed by the prospect.

I did my first real backpacking trip in the summer of 2020 with my cousin, about 60 or 70 miles of this trail. I’ve been surrounded by people like my dad, who’s very good friends with [renowned trail-runner] Joe McConaughy, who has been my biggest inspiration. I push myself to the limit to see how fast I can go.

Tell us about the ADL aspect. Is this the first time you ever did such a rigorous hike for a major cause?

I had never done something like this. But Joe had gone for a fastest-known time in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Obviously, I’m not going to have as many people viewing my story, but I do have this platform. I felt I had a responsibility to do something to affect my community.

From a teenager’s perspective, what’s going on in your community? You write on your fundraising website about the rising tide of antisemitism.

At least since I’ve been in middle school, there’s always been stuff at Arlington schools. Antisemitic graffiti has been the biggest one, and a rabbi’s house was burned. While I’ve never been attacked for being Jewish, I know all these stories. All these things are happening around my community. In the hike, I [honored] Steve Ross, who my family was very close to. He was a Holocaust survivor. My family has a lot of connections to people who have been very affected by antisemitism. I feel connected to those attacks. Even though they weren’t hurting me, they were taking away from my community as a whole.

Let’s talk about the physical endurance required, as well as the emotional and mental breakdown of how you did this. How did you mark each day?

I had a lot of time to think and process. The weight of the responsibility on my shoulders motivated me and kept me going. There were many points when even my dad said, “You do not have to keep going.” My feet hurt; my legs burned. Everything was uncomfortable. I was wet. It felt like I had no reason to keep going, but there was just that little voice in the back of my head telling me that I had chosen this path and chosen this responsibility. I felt that it really kept me going.

Tell us about the fundraising. It seems as if you set a modest goal for the ADL, and you really exceeded it. What was that experience like?

Honestly, that was way crazier than I imagined. I had set the goal at $1,800, because “18” is symbolic in Judaism. My parents shared with their friends and our family, and it seemed like a reasonable goal. Within the first few hours, I had gotten $2,000 in donations, and I was just completely surprised. And then, as I kept going, [noted trail-runner] John Kelly’s wife took a picture of me. She posted it to their website, and then I started to get all these donations from the United Kingdom—people I didn’t even know. It was way more support than I ever could have imagined.

What advice would you give to someone who’s setting out to do something physically similar? It seems absolutely grueling.

I curse myself out a little for not training! But obviously I had done similar things like this before. I sort of knew what to expect, though I don’t think I’ve ever experienced discomfort like this. But I had amazing support. I also think that it’s really not to compare yourself to everyone else [in terms of time]. Stay motivated, which is hard. But everyone has a different path to get to the end, and I think everyone is capable of doing this if they put in the work, have the right mindset and stay positive.

What were your days like?

My time came out to something like eight days, 19 hours and 20-something minutes. I did it myself, and my dad would do three food drops. But the first day I saw the weather, it was pouring rain—for the next seven days. I actually did the first three days, going farther than I expected. By day four, I got back on pace. I dropped a few miles just to relax. Without my dad’s support, I couldn’t have done it. He did so much. He would hike in a couple of miles to meet me with food and water. He would carry my pack at points. The last day, I did about 40 miles, and he hiked about 33 of those miles with me.

One of his friends, Scott, would send me messages. He said: “I’m proud of you. I know you’ve already been out there a few days, and maybe some of those days have given you some tough times. It’s not always milkshakes and rainbows on the trail. You’ve got to work through those hard days so you can get to the good ones.” And then he sent me this quote from “Ted Lasso”: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” Just those things from people who weren’t even there, just sending me support and love, was huge.

Do you have another journey planned?

In the moment, there were so many times when I was like: “Why am I even doing this? This sucks! This is the worst thing I’ve ever done! I’m so uncomfortable.” But as soon as I was done, I wanted to get back out and do another one. And, from what I’ve seen, doing something like this can give you a massive platform. So, I definitely want to try to do something like this again, to maybe raise awareness or support for either the same or a different cause.

Did you have an experience or epiphany during your journey that really crystallized why this cause, antisemitism, matters to you so much?

I had a lot of very meaningful moments not only with myself but with my dad. We were able to talk and have really great conversations. The last two miles of the trail, it was late, probably 11 p.m., and it was super-wet. The trail was soaked, just a puddle. And I just stopped talking. And for those two miles I was in the zone, in the flow, and I had a very clear picture in my mind of how every single person who had ever hiked the trail was just supporting me. Their power and energy were in my legs. That’s kind of how I felt throughout the whole thing. I just had this whole community, all of these people, sending me love and support, and it carried me and pushed me over the edge.

What would you say to other people your age who might not hike, but who want to fight and raise awareness against antisemitism?

Do what you love. Do what you have a passion for. People will see that. Hiking doesn’t have to do with antisemitism, but you can connect it. You can connect anything you have a passion for to whatever cause you’re trying to fight for. And I think people will see that passion, and people will support you. The more support you get, the more passionate you’ll get. It’s a cycle.

Kara Baskin is the parenting writer for JewishBoston.com. She is also a regular contributor to The Boston Globe and a contributing editor at Boston Magazine. She has worked for New York Magazine and The New Republic, and helped to launch the now-defunct Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Email her at kara@jewishboston.com. 

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Communities Fight Back Against Antisemitism

By Rich Tenorio

An antisemitic letter is left in the lobby of a college Hillel. A middle school student makes a threat against Jewish classmates that raises fears of violence. Orthodox Jews are targeted for antisemitic abuse because of the way they dress. These are all incidents that have happened to Jewish communities in New England in recent years. Members of the communities affected discussed how they responded, which can go beyond only calling out antisemitism.

In 2022, the Boston neighborhood of Brighton engaged in a community-wide debate over whether to change zoning laws to allow local Orthodox Jews to create a synagogue. There was an incident in which graffiti apparently depicted a Hasidic man smoking a dollar bill, accompanied by a potentially antisemitic statement, according to Ariella Hellman, director of government affairs for the Orthodox organization Agudah Israel New England. Hellman noted that this was especially alarming to community members given the summer 2021 attack on local rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who was repeatedly stabbed outside the neighborhood synagogue Shaloh House.

In March 2023, Agudah Israel of America was represented at a Washington, D.C., conference between Jewish community members and elected officials. Hellman was pleased by the concern shown by elected officials.

She also praised the response to the Brighton graffiti from the City of Boston, which included the expedited acquisition of equipment to remove the hateful image and words.

“It meant a lot to us,” Hellman said.

During the first half of 2023, multiple municipalities in Massachusetts faced antisemitic incidents and took decisive steps to respond to them.

In April, a swastika was found in Natick, close to a local commuter rail station and a Chabad house. As The Boston Globe reported, the hateful imagery was addressed in a creative way: A non-Jewish woman from the area showed her support by using sidewalk chalk to cover the Nazi symbol with an image of a flower and an anti-hate message. Meanwhile, the local Chabad rabbi, Levi Fogelman, organized a protest march that drew Jewish and non-Jewish attendees.

In June, during Pride Month, Congregation Agudath Achim in Taunton was defaced with antisemitic, anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-Black graffiti, as the Taunton Daily Gazette reported. Because the synagogue has security camera equipment, the vandalism was captured on video, although the perpetrator remains unidentified. The synagogue took concrete steps to address the incident: Both the local police and the Anti-Defamation League were alerted, while an email about the incident was sent to the congregation. The Taunton Gazette article cited two board members stating that this was the first vandalism of Agudath Achim they could remember in their four decades of involvement with the synagogue.

In 2019, when a student in Great Barrington allegedly threatened Jewish classmates, fears were raised of violence toward the latter, according to Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch, spiritual leader of the Hevreh of Southern Berkshire.

“The gun violence couldn’t be actualized, but we realized it still had been traumatic to young people, Jewish kids of the school, many of whom are part of my congregation,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch and fellow rabbi Jodie Gordon held a series of conversations for students and parents about what happens when young people encounter antisemitism. Hirsch also reached out to the school district superintendent, the county district attorney’s office and community organizations, including the local Jewish federation. He found a way to help the Jewish students process their experiences. They traveled to Boston, where they participated in a healing session at Mayyim Hayyim and heard a talk on the history of antisemitism from Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. Hirsch reported no major incidents of hate in the Berkshires since then.

In the fall of 2022, an antisemitic letter was anonymously dropped off in the lobby of a Hillel in Providence, R.I., that is affiliated with both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

“In the end, it was discovered that it had not been written by a student,” said Rabbi Josh Bolton, the executive director of the Brown RISD Hillel. “The university, the university police, the Providence police, everyone worked very, very fast, with a real sense of mission…We just felt, all around, very, very supported.”

He stressed the importance of continuing to offer vibrant weekly programming that draws not only Jewish students but also non-Jews on campus.

“We really want to be a place where Jewish students feel proud and excited to bring non-Jewish roommates,” Bolton said. “We don’t want to be a parochial club, but one of the great centers of student life that reflects what is best in Brown and RISD. We want Hillel and Jewishness to be seen as one of the thick threads around the fabric of the university, a source of meaning for students who are Jews and non-Jews.”

Sources indicated that fighting antisemitism is a complex process.

On campus, Bolton said, “I don’t want Jewish leaders to feel they have to be reactive to every perspective, every incident that strikes them as somehow distasteful. I want it to be about the fact that our Jewish community, including student leadership, goes beyond the cycle of reactivity.”

He noted, “Brown and RISD are not excluded from the national trend” of antisemitism on campus. “There are incidents.” Yet, he added, “I don’t think those incidents in their own right constitute the actual narrative of the Jewish story here. I think it is one of great resilience, flourishing and vitality.”

Hellman, of Agudah, said, “You have to be very proactive about it. We meet often with Precinct 14 of the local police department. Because we’re proactive about the relationship, when these things come up, we can rely on our government partners to support us.

“Of course, calling it out is important. But the Orthodox community is a little more quiet. In calling it out, we don’t want to be even more attractive to the haters, not give them any more air. We try to keep it as quiet as possible but address the issue. The local police department has increased patrols. The mayor’s office got the graffiti cleaned up. It meant something to our community. Our government partners have our backs.”

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org.

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Rabbi to Run ADL New England

By Rich Tenorio

After 12 years running Harvard University Hillel, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg has exchanged Cambridge for Boston, where he is now the New England regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.

Asked about his priorities in the new position, Steinberg said, “I’m really encouraged to see young people connecting with the more than century-long work of the ADL and continuing to do that in such constructive, uplifting ways.” And, he said, “Building partnerships, allyships with organizations in our Jewish community and between organizations in our Jewish community and neighbors in New England are priorities. It’s important to make connections in this quiet time.”

Steinberg knows that things have often been anything but quiet lately.

He cited the ADL’s “Hate in the Bay State” report, which tracked a 41% rise in antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts between 2021 and 2022, from 108 such incidents to 152. The latter number was sixth nationwide. He noted a June 16, 2023, incident in which the sole synagogue in Taunton—Congregation Agudath Achim, a progressive congregation that displays a Pride flag on its building—was defaced with a swastika and antisemitic, anti-Black and anti-LGBTQIA+ graffiti.

“It underscores how vital the work of the ADL is, how timely, how necessary,” Steinberg said. “Of course, I am concerned. All are concerned about the rise of antisemitism and other forms of hate that we see.”

Steinberg joined ADL New England shortly after the launch of CJP’s “Face Jewish Hate” initiative at TD Garden on May 15, 2023. He is ready to assist in the fight against antisemitism in the Boston area and nationwide, including through two initiatives announced in the first half of 2023: CJP’s 5-point plan and the White House national strategy.

Asked about identifying perpetrators of hate crimes and bringing them to justice, Steinberg noted the work of the ADL Center on Extremism, headquartered in New York.

“In some instances, we can be quite specific on who is behind an incident,” he said, adding that some perpetrators are “proud to leave a signature; in other instances, we can’t be sure unless and until law enforcement concludes an investigation and comes to a clear identification as to a perpetrator. But, in all instances, these actors, whether targeting people directly—most concerning of all—or targeting places in which people gather, are not only targeting the individuals themselves or those particular spaces, but our entire community.”

Steinberg comes to the ADL from a diverse background. His appointment is groundbreaking, as he is the first rabbi in his position. (He noted that he is not the first rabbi to join the ADL, mentioning fellow spiritual leader Ron Fish.) Like his predecessor as New England division head, Robert Trestan, Steinberg was born in Canada. As a teenager, Steinberg also lived in Vienna, where his father headed the regional office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee during the Cold War.

“Of course, in those years, that was as far east as you could get and still be in a Western capital,” Steinberg recalled. “It was the center of operations for what was then Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, a transit point for Soviet Jews, Iranian Jews, Persian Jews out of those countries.”

He said that in those days, Austria contained “a deeply antisemitic culture, a culture where antisemitism was deeply enmeshed,” to the point where its schoolchildren used the term “full Jew” as “an insult to one another, not so much me, my sister or members of my family. I heard it as an insult among Austrians. They never did the collective national soul-searching.”

Steinberg went on to become a rabbi, as well as a faculty member at multiple universities. He eventually headed Harvard Hillel for more than a decade—an experience that’s given him valuable perspective in his new job for dealing with antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campus.

“I would say, after 12 years on campus, I could see a unique focus on Israel,” he said. “It is really unlike the treatment of any other national, ethnic or religious community on college campuses. I think that former Harvard president Larry Summers was very right in calling it antisemitism in effect, if not in intent.”

In his new position, Steinberg said, “it’s important to us to work with deans and [diversity, equity and inclusion] offices to make sure we tackle antisemitism … along with tackling other forms of hate that manifest on campus.”

Steinberg is now ready to apply his lessons from Harvard to his new work in Boston and New England.

“I had one dozen wonderful years with the university community,” Steinberg said of his time in Cambridge, “and I hope now to be working with our entire community. I’m not leaving college behind or the university behind in the work of the ADL. This was the right call at the right time.”

Rich Tenorio covers antisemitism news for JewishBoston.com. His work has appeared in international, national, regional and local media outlets. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a cartoonist. Email him at richt@cjp.org.

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NBC Boston Covers Jewish Hate

On Wednesday, July 12, NBC Boston interviewed Chanie Krinsky of Chabad Jewish Center in Needham and CJP’s Sarah Abramson about what has become a horrifying trend.

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