While the local chapter of End Jew Hatred is still growing with only a handful of members, Samantha Merecki hopes to build it out and inspire other people to join the movement.
Two years ago, Samantha Merecki, a student at L’Anse Creuse High School-North in Macomb Township, was scrolling through Instagram. Samantha, who is Jewish, stopped at a post about a synagogue being vandalized and realized antisemitism was still rampant, despite it being many decades since the Holocaust occurred.
Then, she saw a post about a synagogue holding a drill to teach people what to do in the event of a mass shooting or other terrorist attack.
“When you think about antisemitism, you think about the 1940s and everything that happened then,” explains the 16-year-old resident of Macomb Township, in central Macomb County. “It’s crazy to think that hatred is still around.”
Motivated by what she saw on social media, Merecki decided there was much work to be done in helping to erase antisemitism and to teach people about Jewish culture and history.
She began look for an organization to partner with, Merecki discovered End Jew Hatred, a grassroots movement that aims to liberate Jewish people from oppression and discrimination.
“I thought they were perfect,” she says of the group. “So, I contacted them and asked about rallies, events and protests.” Merecki says End Jew Hatred “welcomed her with open arms,” which encouraged her to collaborate with the national organization to develop a local chapter.
Approximately 3,400 people of Macomb County’s nearly 900,000 residents are Jewish, far fewer than the estimated 50,000 Jews who reside among the 1.3 million in neighboring Oakland County.
It has had its share of antisemitism, though, according to the ADL. In June 2019, three middle school students drew chalk swastikas outside a Warren elementary school. In August 2018, Warren police arrested a teenage boy who painted racist graffiti, including swastikas, on fences in Warren.
While the local chapter of End Jew Hatred is still growing with only a handful of members, Merecki hopes to build it out and inspire other people to join the movement.
She’s held two rallies supporting Jewish culture, one in Detroit’s Hart Plaza and the other on Hall Road in Shelby Township. The teenager says the rallies garnered mostly positive response, with a handful of comments opposing the movement.
A recent spike in antisemitism due to last month’s Israeli-Hamas conflict has encouraged Merecki to work even harder. She’s personally witnessed an alarming rise of antisemitic statements, particularly on social media.
“I’ve lost many friends from the conflict,” Merecki explains. “People say stuff like, ‘I’m part of the reason [the conflict] is happening because I support Israel, that I’m part of the reason kids are being killed.”
Other individuals, she continues, have told her that “Zionists are the root of all evil” and that “Zionists are the reason Satan exists.”
Alarmed by these statements, Merecki believes there could be better education about Jewish culture, traditions and history.
“Usually, people who would normally care about Jewish people are the same ones that are replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Zionist,’” she explains of the words being interchanged. “They talk about Jews controlling the media and controlling the banks.”
Even though Merecki has been told that “she’s a child killer,” she “needs to die” and has been called a handful of Jewish slurs and derogatory words, the antisemitism inspires her to work harder on her mission. She takes to social media to help educate people about Judaism and Israel and continues to work with End Jew Hatred to reduce the growing antisemitism.
“I wish people understood that Jews have been kicked out of so many countries,” Merecki says of one lesson she hopes to teach. “We have such a rich history in Israel, but people always assume Jews are European, that they come from Europe. Judaism was born in the Middle East.”
Merecki believes young people like her have an important role to play in reducing antisemitism. “Social media has a huge impact,” she says. “I’ve actually taught a lot of people about Jewish history and culture through TikTok. People are getting really interested in learning about Judaism.”
The teenager explains that social media is a great outlet to help educate people and that more young individuals like herself can take advantage of it as a tool for communication and outreach.
“I’ve been posting more about Judaism and everything that’s beautiful about it,” Merecki says, “and the comments are just filled with horrible stuff. I want to find a way to put a stop to that.”