Rabbi, Pacific Jewish Center, Los Angeles
Member since Aug. 7, 2013
Hello, potential friends.
is My question irelated to a project I'm working on: To your knowledge, is antisemitism a problem in middle-school grades?
Thank you very much.
Antisemitism is seen in a variety of forms in the UK - subtle and not so subtle. Motifs that resonate with the Holocaust and myths that have their roots in medieval antisemitism still persist and often appear quite blatantly.
So I guess I would advocate strongly for Jewish education to invest in building into schools' curriculum content, a carefully constructed programme that seeks to help it's students recognise and respond to antisemitic signals - and begin quite early on ( albeit with due care ). We cannot shy away from the reality nor shield our kids from it.
Moreover this learning ( appropriated) should stretch beyond Jewish education to the wider school system. Our universities are fertile ground for overt antisemitism and so by this stage Jewish students need to be operating in an informed way - on how antisemitic ideas have developed, how they are packaged, how they might respond and how and when to draw upon organisations and structures which are in place to protect individuals. Far from young Jews seeing themselves as targets for victimhood in this process, a carefully constructed learning programme for Jewish schools that seeks to do this while inculcating empowerment and agency challenging as it will be should not be beyond the realms of possibility ( I hope).
After all it is not 'being Jewish' that causes anti semitism but the 'issues' or ignorance of those who perpetrate it. Yet bizarrely sometimes a false inference emerges that implies that there maybe something about 'Jewishness' that brings about this antipathy in people.
I remember that a year or two ago a question appeared on an A Level Religious Studies (Judaism) paper that caused a major row in the British education circles. The question was something like ' Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews'. That question, particular on a paper about Judaism ( as opposed to another subject ) suggested for some that by studying Jewish people, Jewish life, customs and religion ( the content of the syllabus being examined), one might be able to discover (and explain) just why prejudice towards Jews occurs. This was, I hasten to add, far from the exam board's intentions but many were left deeply concerned about the lack of awareness that the questions could be construed in this way. This question appearing on an national exam board paper might reinforce for Jewish and non Jewish students a deeply problematic falsity that antisemitism is inevitable.
I see some problems with inclusivity of antisemitism under a wider 'racism ' agenda, and I am not totally convinced that visits to Holocaust killing sites forges long term Jewish collectiveness. But I'll save these worries for another post once I have tried to get my head around them.
Then I wrote a post about Esther Petrack (the orthodox Jewish model) and a follow up to that post. People were interested in what I had to say. The Facebook post about that blog post got hundreds of comments too. It was clear. The people wanted a place and a forum to talk about Jewish issues in our communities.
So it kind of just evolved from there. The Asifa was another thing that people wanted to discuss and we talked about it a lot on the blog and Facebook.
Then (after some people helped me see this) I realized that to a lot of people I was the rabbi of the Internet. I started getting emails and messages from people around the world. It's been like that for a couple of years now.
Now I consciously try to drive important conversations and discussions. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. But it's almost always fun.
I've been able to use the Internet to bring a lot of exposure and opportunities to my shul. TV and other media appearances have come our way because of the blog and my social media presence. We get visitors for Shabbos who know me from the Internet. It's been positive, mostly. There are some people who dislike what I do online and for them it has been negative. But I would say positive overall.