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Dr. Jeremy Schiller’s story

The COVID-19 pandemic was heavy enough.

As a practicing physician and the Chair of the Salem Board of Health, Dr. Jeremy Schiller was doing his utmost to protect community members from a virus scientists were racing to understand and navigate in real time.

“I had a good relationship with [then Mayor of Salem] Kim Driscoll, and we promoted COVID mitigation strategies that were rooted in science and were progressive and dynamic,” Dr. Schiller says. “Despite overwhelming support from the community, we received a lot of the typical negative responses — and I was ok with that. Science is hard and is always evolving and that is not easy for some to digest and understand.”

However, those responses became personal in December 2021. The Omicron variant was sweeping through Massachusetts and hospitals were dangerously nearing full capacity. The Salem Board of Health, at the urgence of local hospital leaders, instituted a vaccine mandate for local restaurants to help keep area hospitals from a possible catastrophic crisis.

“At that point, there was a real increase in number of those comparing what we were doing to the Holocaust,” Dr. Schiller remembers. “Multiple emails on a daily basis from various people in the community.” Dr. Schiller went out of his way to respond thoughtfully to the emails and educate community members on the actions the Board was taking. However, the correspondences were becoming increasingly antisemitic in nature. Salem’s Health Agent, whose surname sounds Jewish, shared that both he and Dr. Schiller had been the subject of voicemails citing them as “Jews controlling public health.” He also forwarded Dr. Schiller postcards the Board of Health had received that were addressed to “Un ‘Doctor’ Schiller” with a Star of David drawn on it and statements like “FREI” (German for “free”), “GENOCIDE,” and “Justice will come for you” scrawled across them. The Health Department even received a yellow Star of David — badges Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Around this time, a rally was held outside Dr. Schiller’s house (he wasn’t there), organized by Diana Ploss, an independent gubernatorial candidate who, later that week, livestreamed a simulcast of the Board of Health meeting, with hateful comments like, “Look at this Jew, always after money” and “Look at the smug Jew talking” posted on her website. Dr. Schiller, who volunteers in his position as Board Chair, was aghast and disgusted that his efforts to help guide the community safely through the pandemic evolved into an opportunity for antisemites to viciously attack him for the simple fact that he is Jewish.

“It was scary,” Dr. Schiller says. “I contacted Mayor Driscoll and there was no political calculus whatsoever on her part. She immediately released a letter along with the ADL condemning what was going on.” Dr. Schiller also applauds the swift response of Chief Lucas Miller of Salem Police Department in coming to his defense, as well as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Lahey Health, Dr. Kevin Tabb, for reaching out and supporting him.

“To me, there’s a role for condemnation and outrage, but it can’t end there. Education and understanding are critical components to combating antisemitism and hate,” Dr. Schiller says. “That’s why the idea of allyship is so important to me. We can only imagine how many other groups of people feel marginalized. I have a very close family and amazing friends. I can’t imagine how deeply undercutting and painful this would be to someone who doesn’t have that kind of support — because even with that support I can still feel the pain of it today.”

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Rabbi Shlomo Noginski’s story

On July 1, 2021, while standing near the entrance to Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton, Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was approached by a man with a gun who demanded that he give him the keys to his vehicle and then instructed him to get inside the car. Rabbi Noginski, fearing for the lives of the school-aged children attending summer camp within the building, ran from the assailant and, in the ensuing struggle that followed on Brighton Commons, was stabbed a total of eight times in broad daylight.

But for every stab wound, for every ache, pain, and hardship that followed in his slow recovery, Rabbi Noginski is only keeping a tally of all the miracles, including — defying comprehension — being in the right place at the right time.

“I have seen G-d’s hand throughout my life,” Rabbi Noginski says.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, Rabbi Noginski’s family was targeted for being Jewish. His mother, a celebrated composer and pianist who had won a national competition and performed in the Kremlin, attracted the attention of antisemites disgusted that a Jew — and a woman — received the award.

The family received multiple death threats and Rabbi Noginski was often physically and verbally attacked. They made aliyah (immigration to Israel) to escape antisemitism in the early 90s and Rabbi Noginski’s mother encouraged him to take up martial arts to defend himself.

Rabbi Noginski believes his black belt in judo played a small role in defending himself from the dozens of relentless stabbing attempts made by his attacker over the course of their struggle that lasted more than 10 minutes. However, he is quick to point to a series of divine interventions for his ability to stave off more serious or even fatal injuries, rather than his “physical prowess.”

“It is G-d’s protection that is the real assistance,” he says. “But the real miracle is that I was outside of the school accidentally. If I came out earlier or later, this young man would have had unhindered access to the school and the camp, and it could’ve been much worse.”

Rabbi Noginski sustained six stab wounds to his left arm and hand and two to his abdomen. The attacker, who was discovered to have a history of using antisemitic slurs, was charged with hate crimes, as well as assault with intent to murder and attempted armed robbery, and the investigation is ongoing.

“In the short term, I simply could not perform any manual physical labor with my left hand or bear any weight, and one of the deeper wounds in my left shoulder affects my ability to do heavy lifting with my left arm,” Rabbi Noginski says. “In terms of emotional rehabilitation, that’s another story.”

Rabbi Noginski sees this attack as “a second birthday,” a blessing, and proof of G-d’s presence in his life. He’s using this incident to infuse the community with “more light and positivity” and has already opened a new Rabbinic Studies program at the school.

“Going forward, I feel I’ve been charged with a mission of doing more than I was before,” he says. “Anything that happens is directed by G-d, and this only strengthens my Jewish pride and identity.”

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Chanie Krinsky’s story

On a May evening four years ago, Chanie Krinsky had just put her three youngest children to bed when she heard rustling outside of her home, the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham.

Thinking it was an expected visitor, she asked her son to greet them at the door, but he reported seeing no one there. Right afterward, her husband, Rabbi Mendy Krinsky, returned home with groceries and Chanie smelled smoke.

“I’m very sensitive to it because I had been in a serious house fire when I was younger,” Chanie explains. Mendy searched inside for the source of the smell and couldn’t find anything when Chanie remembered that the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Arlington-Belmont, the home of Rabbi Avi Bukiet and his wife, Luna, had been set on fire just days earlier. She urged Mendy to look outside.

When Mendy opened the door, their son peeked his head out and immediately noticed small flames licking at the side of the house, near the entrance to the synagogue. Because of the rain, because of their access to a fire extinguisher, or, as Mendy and Chanie believe, because of divine intervention, they were able to contain the damage to the exterior and put out the fire before the fire department arrived on the scene.

“As soon as I heard that there was a fire, I woke up the kids who were already in bed, carrying them, half-awake, out of the house and into the car,” Chanie says. From there, Chanie sent out a message to other Chabad residents in their network, explaining what had happened. “I said, we’re safe, be careful out there, you know, in case this person was going around doing this to other places,” she recalls.

Through her chat group, she learned that the Bukiets, once again, had their Chabad set on fire that very evening, just 40 minutes earlier.

“It was hard for us to sleep that night, knowing this person was still out there, knowing that someone was trying to burn our house down,” Chanie says.

The next day — Shabbat — brought hope.

“The number of flowers and gifts and messages of support that we received from the community was so touching,” Chanie says. “Two women from the community suggested holding the Havdalah ceremony outside our house after the sabbath ended, and they told the local temples and churches. We came out of the house on Saturday night and there were more than 400 people there — the police blocked the street. We prayed, we sang songs, it was so moving.”

At the time, people were saying, “Maybe take down the menorah in front of your house, maybe you should hide it, or remove your address online,” Chanie says. “We said, ‘Absolutely not. We’re not going to hide.’ On the contrary, we believe this event and similar ones should be an impetus for growth. The best way to combat antisemitism is to be stronger and prouder Jews.”

“Until the indictment, there was no way to know for sure that it was antisemitism, but we knew even then,” Chanie says. “We’ll never know why he chose ours and the Bukiet’s — but they were both the homes of the Chabad rabbis and their families.”

The man accused of the Chabad arson died before justice could be served, but the mark from the fire remains on the house and, since then, one of her sons was targeted for being Jewish and physically assaulted in Manhattan.

“Sometimes the world can feel scary, but you need to move on, you can’t live with that heaviness,” Chanie says. “We have to be aware, but we trust in G-d and move on. We can’t let this stop us.”

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Sam’s* story

Imagine you’re a sophomore in high school, living in a small, picturesque New England town. You come home from school one day before break, ready to relax, and open your Snapchat to see what your friends are up to. And just like that, you’re confronted with a picture of a swastika made of pennies taken in one of the classrooms of your high school. Sam* doesn’t have to imagine. She and her friend lived it.

Back when Sam and her friend experienced this incident in high school, they had already endured years of cutting comments about their Jewish heritage from their classmates and friends, saying things like “Do you live in little Israel?“ or “I didn’t know Jews were allowed to go trick or treating.” And they shrugged them off because they didn’t want to make waves with people who clearly didn’t understand how offensive they were being.

But when that swastika was posted, it was a step too far to ignore anymore. Enough was enough. “This was posted on social media, so a broad amount of people were seeing it compared to when someone just says a comment to you. You don’t have proof per se, but this was posted, and however many friends he had on Snapchat were however many people were seeing the post,” Sam says.

Sam and her friend decided it was time to make a change. At first, they kept it a secret because they didn’t know if people would understand. When their friends approached them, Sam said, “I’m a minority here. None of you are Jewish and I didn’t know how you were going to react because I was doing something against one of our friends.” They needed help. After talking with their parents, they boldly reached out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL answered the girls’ call and introduced them to a program called A World of Difference Institute that educates and trains faculty and students on how to deal with issues of discrimination of all types. But there was a slight problem. They needed funding to get the program off the ground in their school. To their relief and delight, the community stepped up. Parents, local businesses, and their high school PCO worked together to raise over $7,000 in just a few short weeks.

To this day, Sam and her friend’s courage to ask for help continues to better their hometown. “My youngest brother who’s seven years younger than me is at my high school now, and he’s being taught these things [by A World of Difference Institute] […] It’s really important to me to know that they are still doing it and they are still educating the teachers and the kids.”

Sam knows that the work isn’t done. “It’s so weird to me because I just graduated college and I feel like I’m still actively doing things for this, and I was 16 years old when I first started. I did not think that six or seven years later this would be staying with me.” Even though antisemitic incidents are up all over America and “it’s a really scary time to be a Jewish woman,” Sam keeps moving forward. “I like to help out as much as I can. People still reach out to me asking if I can help and I try and do that in the best way possible.”

By sharing her and her friend’s story again, Sam has given hope to the next generation one more time.

* Name changed upon request due to safety concerns. 

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Andie’s story

It all started with a “harmless” joke.

Andie, just beginning their conversion to Judaism, was simply trying to connect with their family at the movies. On any given day, Andie is generally guarded around their family, and with good cause. “A lot of members of my family of origin are pretty homophobic and say a lot of really insensitive or offensive things — before and after I came out.” Ready to endure and respond to this kind of behavior, they set off to hopefully make the best of an evening together.

But their cousin had other ideas. Andie was extremely close with this cousin and his sister, “they were basically two extra members of my family.” But “as we grew up, he really started saying and doing things that were not ok — being really sexist, being really homophobic.” And Andie tried to avoid him and stay in a space that made them feel safe, but he caught them off guard.

While waiting in line for popcorn, their cousin decided now was his moment. He said, “Why are the rabbis running down the street? They were chasing a penny.” Andie was stunned. They were ready to hear offensive comments, but not about their newly found religion. Andie’s safe space was torn apart.

No one thought there was anything wrong with Andie’s cousin’s casual antisemitism, not even their mother, who as a devout Christian that believes Christians are persecuted in American society, might be the one person to truly get it. But she simply dismissed Andie’s concern with, “Don’t pay attention to it.”

Andie’s family has a history of not understanding where they’re coming from. “I’m neurodivergent, I do and say weird things and I have a very funky sense of humor, and I kind of feel like that puts a target on me a little bit with my family.” And on top of that, they grew up in a far-right-leaning, religious household where they were told their whole lives that being gay was bad — “It’s sinful.”

They were taught that religion was not a welcoming place for all, until they discovered there was more out there than what their family believed. “When I explored more about other religions I was like, ‘Oh, so it’s not all bad, it can even be a really positive thing in somebody’s life.’”

They’ve since become more devoutly Jewish and find it healing, Shabbat in particular. “It’s an anticapitalistic practice that’s very important to me in my life, and also, as somebody with a lot of chronic illnesses, I need time where I am basically just doing nothing to heal my body and rest my neshama (soul) after a long week of working.”

Still, when they go to visit their family, they aren’t being respected or accepted, so they try and find ways to work around their family’s expectations, like dressing in ways that will be approved of — shorts and a t-shirt instead of long sleeves and a long skirt — or trying to keep kosher in their own quiet way even though their grandmother insists on offering them shrimp in a manner that feels to Andie like it’s a “power play.”

Fortunately, Andie has found their chosen family — people who make them feel seen — throughout their conversion to Judaism while at college and beyond into their new life. “I live 3,000 miles away now and I’ve cultivated a really good group of people who understand my quirks, and I feel very loved.”

And so, it didn’t all start with a joke, but maybe that’s where it all ends.

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Addie’s story

“Don’t mind him, he’s just being cheap like a Jew.”

When Addie, working as a cashier in Foxborough in 2021, heard those words from a customer watching her companion fumble through his wallet, she felt an immediate physical reaction.

But this wasn’t Addie’s first time experiencing antisemitism.

Growing up in a small town southwest of Boston, Addie remembers being one of a handful of Jewish kids in her graduating class of 360 students. From the cliques that formed around church groups to being singled out during her history class unit on Judaism, pervasive feelings and messages of otherness were omnipresent throughout her formative years.

During a lecture on dictators in her freshman year, a classmate turned to her and said, “Addie, you need to go hide because the Nazis are going to come for you.”

“I didn’t think too much of it when it happened,” Addie recalls. “I was a shy kid. I went through the day, didn’t say anything to my teachers, didn’t say anything to anyone else, but I came home and was telling my mom about school, and I said, ‘Oh, this kid said this to me,’ and she sort of just stopped in her tracks and was like, ‘What? Can you repeat that?’ She said, ‘You know that’s not ok, right?’ I told her that I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do.”

Her father called the school, and Addie remembers feeling embarrassed, fearing reprisal and not wanting to draw additional attention to herself. After she met with the principal and told him what happened, the boy was moved across the room away from her, but he never apologized. “I think I kind of knew that nothing was going to be done,” Addie says.

Her mom and dad, however, insisted that calling it out was necessary. “Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I’m glad they did it, it was a learning and growing moment for me to realize that things like this happen and they happen often.”

During her senior year, a teacher told Addie that her congestion from a cold made her sound like “an old Jewish woman from New York.”

“I had to hold myself back — she was an adult and an authority figure,” Addie says. “Now, looking back, I know I should’ve done or said something. That was another moment.”

Addie believes that these “moments” helped shape her into the person she is today and gave her the courage and confidence to speak up that day in Foxborough.  

Noticing that the man was looking at her and toward Addie with embarrassment, the woman continued, “Oh don’t worry, she’s not Jewish.”

Heart racing, Addie says that she “put the customer service part of [herself] aside” and said, “Actually, yes I am, and you shouldn’t say things like that.” She says that the woman seemed ashamed of what she said but didn’t offer an apology, and Addie’s manager gave her the time to step away and calm down after she explained what occurred.

While she knows antisemitism is never going to completely go away, Addie isn’t hiding, and these experiences have only strengthened her Jewish identity. “I hate that it happened, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it,” Addie says, noting that she shares these incidents as often as she can to encourage others to fight back. “I define it as a source of pride. It’s a badge of honor.”

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Empowering My Teen to Combat Antisemitism

By Sarah Plymate

With the almost 400% rise in antisemitism since 2023 and with three Jewish children of my own, I have been deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitism and bigotry in all forms. That’s why I joined the North Shore Antisemitism Task Force in December 2023. This task force brings together a group of educators, community organizers and parents who aim to empower and educate North Shore teens when faced with antisemitism on their campuses and in social media. Our first event, “Standing Strong: Empowering Teens to Recognize and Respond to Antisemitism,” was hosted by the nationally recognized organization TribeTalk.

Our task force was able to get the support of 16 sponsors, both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. We wanted our teens to know that the North Shore community is here to support them and won’t stand for antisemitism. The fact that individuals and groups actively came together to tackle antisemitism head-on sends a powerful message of unity and resilience. I loved TribeTalk’s encouragement for students to engage with Jewish life on college campuses, find meaningful ways to connect with their identity and community, and provide a sense of belonging and support during challenging times. Whether through joining Jewish organizations, attending cultural events or participating in religious gatherings, these experiences can enrich students’ college experiences and foster a strong sense of community.

At the dinner table after the event, I spoke with my biggest critic, my teenage daughter. She enjoyed the slide deck and educational overview of the history of antisemitism and how to recognize it. Several of her friends from her public high school were there, as well as students from local parochial schools, so she felt better knowing everyone had the same definition of antisemitism and how to recognize it.

She found it particularly powerful when the teens broke into small groups to read scenarios based on real-life antisemitic events that had happened to others, and then collectively decide how to best address the confrontation. Rather than seeing clips and posts from what’s happening on college campuses through social media, these scenarios had actionable answers—there was follow-up, and it was up to each group to figure out what they would do in the given situations. This hands-on approach not only educates teens, creates dialogue and improves critical thinking, but also empowers them to take action when they encounter bigotry in their own lives.

I appreciated Robin Friedman‘s emphasis on the diversity of experiences with antisemitism on college campuses. While not all students may encounter antisemitism, it’s crucial to provide resources and support for those who do. I want my children to be strong in their own identity. By acknowledging the varied nature of these experiences, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students.

Now is the time to stand up against antisemitism, bigotry and hate of every kind. When I envisioned my kids heading off to college, my thoughts were filled with curiosity. I wondered how they would engage with campus life—would they join Greek organizations, participate in Hillel or Chabad or explore their identities in other ways? Who would they become through these experiences? But today, my concerns have shifted and their safety weighs heavily on my mind. No one should ever feel the need to hide, feel ashamed or bear the burden of guilt when their character is unfairly attacked. My hope now is that after this engagement with TribeTalk, our teens will be equipped with more in their toolkit to navigate such situations—whether it’s knowing how to respond effectively or walking away, finding themselves in a better place emotionally.

“Standing Strong: Empowering Teens to Recognize and Respond to Antisemitism” was made possible in part by CJP’s Center for Combating Antisemitism (CCA), a growing hub for Boston’s work in responding to antisemitism. The CCA also brings local and national partners’ work together, strategically and in coordination with each other toward a vision where antisemitism becomes socially and politically unacceptable in Greater Boston. 

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Boston teens visited the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism headquarters

By Molly Kazan, Fighting Antisemitism Manager at Combined Jewish Philanthropies

On Sunday, April 7, 18 teen leaders from CJP’s Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) Peer Leadership Fellowship visited the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS) headquartered at Gillette Stadium. Fellows explored how FCAS’ work connects to CJP’s Center for Combating Antisemitism, and how they themselves can become better change agents in local efforts to fight Jewish hate.   

The visit was planned in response to a February 2024 study the Fellows conducted amongst their peers citing growing concerns in antisemitism among Boston-area Jewish teens. The Peer Leadership Fellowship is a signature program of JTI at CJP that trains and empowers teens in grades 10 through 12 to become communal connectors through monthly gatherings.  

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Addressing Antisemitism Head-On

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

Underpinning Dara Horn’s newest piece on antisemitism appearing in The Atlantic, “Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies,” is the same premise that grounds CJP’s growing work to combat antisemitism: that “one confounding fact in this onslaught of the world’s oldest hatred is that American society should have been ready to handle it.” Almost six months after the attacks of 10/7, it becomes clearer each day that antisemitism is both pervasive in our society and that American civic society and many of our leaders were not and are still not prepared to handle it.  

It is this exact space that CJP is building out our work to combat antisemitism.  

In this month’s newsletter, we highlight CJP’s increased investments in security for early childhood centers and day schools to ensure that our Jewish communal organizations are prepared on physical security as they are forced to contend with the rise of antisemitism. Our partners at JCRC also wrote this month about growing calls by city councils in Greater Boston to hold public hearings for ceasefire resolutions. While JCRC has worked with council leaders to better prepare them on the complexities of these issues, the public hearings themselves have also brought an onslaught of antisemitic rhetoric and comments. Finally, as CJP builds out and supports work to better train and resource campus administrators with tools on antisemitism, we are highlighting resources for students as anti-Zionism continues on campuses during spring semester.

Through communal security, working with civic leadership, and supporting Jewish students, CJP and its partners are working to address that “confounding fact” Dara Horn so aptly highlighted so that our society once and for all ensures that antisemitism becomes politically and socially unacceptable by addressing it head-on.

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Empowering Teens to Recognize and Respond to Antisemitism

Sunday, April 28, 2024
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Jewish Community Center of the North Shore
4 Community Road
Marblehead, MA 01945

Knowledge is power! Learn to identify and confront antisemitism! Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to hear from TribeTalk, a nationally recognized organization dedicated to helping teens and college students feel confident and competent in recognizing and responding to antisemitism. Through engaging discussions and interactive scenarios, we’ll learn about antisemitism: how to recognize it, how to respond to it, and how to remain strong in our Jewish identity.

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Supporting and Protecting the Next Generation

By Combined Jewish Philanthropies

Nurturing and engaging the next generation in Jewish life has always been an integral component of CJP’s mission and values. However, fears about rising antisemitism and the backlash against Israel following the terror attacks of Oct. 7 have left many parents, teachers, and caregivers concerned for the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff at Greater Boston’s 14 Jewish day schools and 40 early childhood centers (ECCs).  

To continue this important work and as part of our ongoing 5-Point Plan to combat Jewish hate, CJP’s Communal Security Initiative (CSI) has allocated new one-time surge grants to these schools and centers totaling $515,000. All funds will be distributed in early February and will go toward supporting each institution’s unique security needs.  

Even before the terror attacks, CJP’s Communal Security Initiative has been working with these schools and centers to ensure that educators, parents, and children feel seen and safe, giving them the right tools to succeed.  

“We’ve been building a foundation of safety and security through first aid, CPR, active threat trainings, and on-site assessments and consultations through our partnership with the CSI team,” says Jodi Jarvis, senior director of family engagement at CJP. But antisemitism is on the rise and anxiety and fear of the families of these children is causing stress for the entire community. Jeremy Yamin, vice president of security and operations at CJP, notes that although they’ve been working with day schools and early childhood centers for years, now was the time to increase focus on safety and security for these important constituencies, especially the ECCs. 

“The CSI program is a long-term investment by CJP in the community. And for everything we work toward at CSI—the goal is to be proactive, holistic, and sustainable. But there are certain moments in time when we’re able to add more to our programs.”  

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, this is the largest investment CSI has been able to offer preschools.  

“We’re excited to offer this type of support to our networks and to continue to build a foundation where families feel safe and secure with where their children are,” says Jarvis.   

The schools and centers that received the grants were also excited. Amy Bolotin of Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center at Temple Israel of Boston said, “It has been essential that we increase security presence at our school this year. The CJP grant has supported our ability to cover that cost. Our parent and educator communities are deeply grateful for CJP’s support and the peace of mind knowing we are doing our best to keep our children safe.” 

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JCRC K-12 Parent Interest Form

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston is expanding its work in the K-12 education space to strengthen partnerships with school districts and engage with parents and guardians. Sign up to receive future emails from the JCRC about programs and resources specifically geared toward families of K-12 students.

Sign Up for JCRC Parent Resources
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Opening Remarks From Rabbi Marc Baker at ADL New England’s The Good Fight Forum 2023

Rabbi Marc Baker, president & CEO of CJP, shared his opening remarks at ADL New England’s The Good Fight Forum on Oct. 10, 2023, a community event dedicated to combating antisemitism and hate.

Dear Friends,

As we’ve already heard, we are here this morning at an unprecedented time in this history of the State of Israel and the history of the Jewish People.  

Several years ago, this gathering, this Good Fight, was created as a response to the most horrific and deadly antisemitic attack we had ever experienced here in America – the Tree of Life shooting. It devastated the Pittsburgh community, touched many people here in our own community, and in many ways changed Jewish life in America as we now know it. Let us keep the Tree of Life victims in our hearts and minds today and always.  

We are here because the hatred that has plagued the Jewish community and the world for thousands of years is not only alive and well, but still growing here in America and right here in our own community – in schools, on college campuses, from the egregious displays of white supremacists blaming 9/11 on the Jews to casual workplace conversations and the social media of pop stars and professional athletes.  

This morning, we are here one day after thousands of us gathered on Boston Common to stand in solidarity with Israel and to raise our voices – together with friends, allies, elected officials and other local leaders. We gathered to express our love, solidarity, grief, anger, and moral outrage at the horrific and heinous acts of terror that have taken over 900 innocent Israeli lives. The Good Fight taking place right now in Israel is a war to protect the innocent lives of our Jewish family thousands of miles away and to protect the future of the Jewish homeland.  

And this is not just far away – it is already touching nearly every one of us in some way or another, whether one of the tens of thousands of Israelis living here in Greater Boston or American Jews who have friends and family living in Israel and defending the Jewish State. My personal friends and family had to go directly from yesterday’s rally to the home of dear friends to escort them the airport after they learned that their son-in-law – a young man with a tremendous spirit, love of Israel, and bright future ahead of him – was killed in battle.  

My friends, in the past few days we have witnessed the largest, most gruesome massacre of Jews that I have seen in my lifetime and that we have seen since the Holocaust. We are here today to fight for our own safety and well-being and for the future of our community and this country; Israelis are in a fight for their lives; and we are living through the darkest moment of hatred and violence against Jews that many of us have ever known.  

Add to this the vile and incomprehensible response that we have seen in the streets of Cambridge and on college campuses – a defense of terror and violence rooted in ignorance and extremist, antisemitic ideologies that demonize Israel and dehumanize Israelis, and that, in fact, threaten the safety, security and well-being of Jews, especially, but not exclusively, our young people.  

We are here today to better understand these challenges and what we can do about them, again with gratitude to the partners and leaders from across our community who are doing this work everyday in so many different ways.  

Put simply, we have work to do. We have work to do to educate, advocate, and mobilize our communities, along with friends and allies, to fight against all forms of antisemitism, especially right now against Israel-hatred, along with all other forms of bigotry and hate; to fight against forces of extremism, conspiracy theories and other forms of disinformation and demonization; and to ensure that every person can walk down the street and through the world with head held high with a sense of safety, security, confidence in their personal identity and belonging in the larger society of which we are a part.  

We have work to do to create communities and a world where everyone – of every religion, race, gender, sexual orientation – feels free, safe, accepted, and valued.  

We have work to do, which is why I’m so proud that over the past year CJP has partnered with ADL and so many other organizations to launch our 5-Point Plan to combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism. We will not likely eliminate a 3,000-year-old hatred in our lifetimes, but we will certainly be stronger and fight against it more effectively when we fight it together.  

Together, we are educating and mobilizing our community. Together, we are putting faces and stories to the personal experiences of Jew-hatred through our Face Jewish Hate media campaign, and we are partnering with the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism’s national blue square campaign so more people who share our values will #StandUpToJewishHate.

Together, we are expanding community security to ensure that we and our children will be safe and secure as we choose to live engaged, vibrant, joyous Jewish lives in our schools and synagogues and community centers.  

Together, we are deepening relationships with allies and leaders from across civic Boston because this is not a Good Fight that we will win alone, and as my friend, JCRC CEO Jeremy Burton, always reminds us, antisemitism, like other forms of hate, is not a problem for the Jewish community to solve on our own.  

It was heartening, comforting, even inspiring to launch our Face Jewish Hate campaign at TD Garden side by side with important and influential political and faith leaders; just as it was heartening yesterday to hear the unequivocal support for Israel and condemnation of terror from so many of our friends, allies and elected officials. That only happens because of the work ADL, JCRC, so many of the partners here today, do to deepen these relationships, to stand with and show up for other vulnerable communities, to fight for democracy, human dignity, and for the character of our commonwealth and our country. I feel grateful and hopeful that we are in this fight, this Good Fight, with friends and allies who will stand with us, and that we are in this with one another, together.  

Thank you.

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Staying Safe Against Cyberhate 

By Rich Tenorio 

When the Israeli organization CyberWell published a report on the state of online antisemitism for 2022, the survey quoted multiple Jews on the subject. They included Tyler Samuels, a Jamaican Jew who recounted the backlash he faced after discussing history—both Jewish and Jamaican Jewish—on social media. 

“I was inundated with hate, from death threats to the usage of slurs against me,” Samuels said. “This abuse only got worse if I dared mention my love of Israel.” 

Netflix host Dr. Sheila Nazarian, a Jewish Iranian American with a significant social media presence, noted that “the sad reality is that I am often the target of harassment and hate—just for being Jewish.” 

“This abuse only got worse if I dared mention my love of Israel.”

Dr. Sheila Nazarian

Cyberhate is defined as “[online] hate speech” by the Anti-Defamation League, and the ADL and other organizations are marshaling their resources to combat it. 

“Unfortunately,” the ADL explained in its “Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate,” “while the internet’s capacity to improve the world is boundless, it also is used by some to transmit antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of hate, prejudice and bigotry.” 

In a resulting initiative from the ADL, a Working Group on Cyberhate emerged following a request for action from the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism back in 2012. The best practices were published in 2019, and the platforms expressing support included Twitter. Ironically, the platform—now owned by Elon Musk and renamed X—has gotten into a public dispute with the ADL over the issue of antisemitic and racist content on the site. This is why reporting antisemitism matters both in-person and online.

CyberWell has made it a priority to address online antisemitism. Of the many types of Jew hate, online antisemitism is among today’s fastest-spreading, according to CyberWell. The organization’s 2022 survey found that the highest amount of online antisemitism overwhelmingly consisted of stereotypes, tropes and conspiracies (63.7%). The second- and third-highest percentages were collective blame of Jews (15.6%) and antisemitism directed against Israel or Israelis (8.8%). The findings did not represent the whole of last year, as the organization did not begin tracking data online until May. 

Samuels described his own proactive steps—as well as his frustration at having to make them: “Rather than focusing on educating people about Jewish history, I now have to police my notifications to hide and block antisemitic comments on my posts.” He called this “an exhausting existence.” 

“Rather than focusing on educating people about Jewish history, I now have to police my notifications to hide and block antisemitic comments on my posts.”

Tyler Samuels

Both CyberWell and the ADL recommend actions that can be taken. 

The ADL Cyber Safety Action Guide offers tips to report antisemitic content on numerous platforms, although it notes that there are often limits to these platforms’ policies. CyberWell details its efforts to get platforms to remove antisemitic content, noting their varying levels of responsiveness. The organization even trains students in how to recognize and report online antisemitism from its Tel Aviv location. And it explains rights explicitly or implicitly guaranteed to social media users. 

Jewish social media users, according to CyberWell, are guaranteed “protection from online hate hosted on these platforms—whether it is targeted harassment against you specifically, or generally spreading fear and harmful misinformation about the Jewish people as a group.” 

As for Samuels, he expressed a wish that social media companies would be as proactive in removing antisemitic content as he is in self-monitoring it. 

“I do it,” he said, “because I have no faith anymore that social media platforms are acting with a solid will to remove those who perpetrate this old virus of hatred.” 

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.