Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students were shocked at how much they did not know about antisemitism and other forms of hate in the community.

In the world of COVID, the atmosphere of school has changed completely. While virtual learning has increased, so has the availability to hide behind your screen; and connecting with classmates has become harder than ever before. 

I was scrolling through social media and noticed that a few classmates of mine posted insensitive and hateful things about Israel and Zionism. Speaking with a few of my Jewish classmates, I learned of similar experiences and even of some insensitive comments made to them directly. I felt uncomfortable knowing that some students could be so open to hate as future medical professionals that will be taking care of a diverse patient population. 

Currently, I am in my second year of medical school at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) and president of the Jewish Medical Student Association (JeMSA). During my time as president, I wanted to make sure that no other students feel like they must hide a part of themselves to connect with others at school, especially if they are Jewish. I also wanted to ensure that my fellow future physicians were going to treat all patients without bias no matter who they are, where they come from or what they believe in. 

Leah Rotenbakh
Leah Rotenbakh

I contacted Hillel of Metro Detroit to help the Jewish Medical Student Association (JeMSA) construct a plan. We decided that antisemitism training led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) would be appropriate to offer the OUWB student body. All students and faculty from the OUWB medical school were invited and encouraged to attend the session. There were about 30 participants on the Zoom call, with a majority being non-Jewish students who wanted to learn more about antisemitism and antibias. 

I was also pleasantly surprised to see multiple OUWB faculty members present and was thrilled to witness their commitment to their students. The training, led by Emily Snider of the ADL, lasted an hour and a half, and was concluded with a Q+A. 

OUWB students were shocked at how much they did not know about antisemitism and other forms of hate in the community. The students were thankful for the training and thought it was helpful to them as they transition from students to medical professionals. I am now more equipped to recognize bias-related incidents and how to report them and more comfortable knowing that my classmates understand antisemitism and know what to look for. 

This opportunity was important to provide to my fellow students and the 10 faculty members in attendance. It was a fantastic first step, and I hope that JeMSA will continue to educate and support their peers to benefit the OUWB community as well as everyone our medical students will encounter in the future.

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