Act Against Antisemitsm
(iStock)

“Take them seriously,” according to Temple Israel program.

When Jewish children tell trusted caregivers they’ve been the targets of antisemitism, either in person or on social media, they should be taken seriously so hatred will not become a societal norm. 

That was the main message from a June 2 Zoom webinar “Talking to your Children about Antisemitism” offered by Temple Israel of West Bloomfield in coordination with the Michigan chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and Wayne State University psychologist Erika Bocknek. Around 25 households Zoomed into the seminar in response to the record-breaking rise in global antisemitism that reached a crescendo following Hamas’ latest war with Israel. 

“Social media has been exploding with hatred,” said Michigan ADL Director Carolyn Normandin. “We have seen a tremendous amount of anti-Jewish rhetoric targeting Jews, including ‘Hitler was right,’ and ‘We should have burned all the Jews’ because of the violence in Israel.”

‘Pyramid of Hate’

Michigan ADL Education Director Kristin Jager said it is important to educate youth about the “Pyramid of Hate” to understand through the lens of history how attitudes of bias and microaggressions toward Jews or any minority can escalate to violence and potentially, genocide. 

Pyramid of Hate
Pyramid of Hate ADL

“The ADL is most effective when we can work in the two lowest tiers of this pyramid in countering bias attitudes and smaller acts of bias,” Jager said. 

Jager explained four strategies to use to prevent the normalization of hatred and bias. 

• Call out the person who has used an ethnic slur or said something hateful about another group by asking their intentions. 

• Remind that person that what they said was hurtful and dangerous to that ethnic or religious group. 

• Tell the offending person that every person is deserving respect.

  Put the hateful words and acts into a historical context. 

“What we are noticing is that when it comes to the myths and stereotypes about Jews, what was old is new again,” Jager said. “Our young people are hearing the same antisemitic tropes that are connected to the past.”

Take a Stand

Stressing the need to collect as much data on hate acts as possible, Jager said that people need not hesitate to report an incident to the ADL, including any screenshots of hate-filled messages or memes on social media, for evidence. Incidents can be reported anonymously. 

“We are encouraging people to take a stand, and we rely on the data we receive,” Jager said. “We cannot let (hatred or bias toward any minority group) become normalized in our communities.” 

Incidents of antisemitism in Michigan in 2020
Incidents of antisemitism in Michigan in 2020 Kaitlyn Schoen | Detroit Jewish News

The ADL with support from a grant from the Shulman Foundation will offer to teens a virtual, three-part Summer Anti-Bias Institute in July. Applications for the program open in mid-June. For more information, contact Jager at kjager@adl.org. 

Erika Bocknek, associate professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University and the principal investigator of the WSU Family Resilience Lab, said one thing that the Detroit Jewish community does well for its youth is to provide a strong sense of identity and community. These two things are crucial as youth mature into the world where they will experience implicit and explicit bias, she said. 

“We have found that culturalization practices in other minoritized groups, such as community gatherings and rituals, provide a source of positive identity development,” Bocknek explained. 

“Developing a strong Jewish identity is a robust strategy for facing bias in the world. Not only is it good for our children, but it gives parents a sense of mastery to feel successful as they together face hatred alongside their children.”

Previous articleJARC Appoints Joshua Tobias as President and Chairman
Next articleTorah Portion: An Urgent Need
Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com