How do you stamp out anti-Semitism?
It seems like an impossible task.
One answer is this: One teacher at a time. Each teacher, after all, influences several classrooms.
With that in mind, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is partnering with the Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education in Suffern to present an anti-anti-Semitism training program for middle school and high school educators next week. (See below.)
“It’s important to find a way to educate the educators who are sharing their views with the next generation,” Ariella Noveck said. Ms. Noveck is the director of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee. “Anti-Semitic acts are occurring all over the world,” she continued. “It’s happening in our backyard.”
The Rockland Holocaust Museum began training teachers about anti-Semitism and bias a year and half ago when it hired Abigail Miller as its director of education. “This year, since September, we have run in excess of 100 programs,” Andrea Winograd, the museum’s executive director, said. “Many schools come to us proactively, because they are concerned by what they see happening in neighboring communities or on the news and want to head off any any problems. We also receive many calls from schools wanting to help address something that has occurred, like a swastika graffiti or something of that sort.”
The North Jersey federation’s first program with the Rockland museum for educators, held in March, was a success. That program trained teachers in the broader questions of implicit bias and racism. Next week’s program goes further: “This is about how teachers can address anti-Semitism in their classroom, either proactively or reactively as needed,” Ms. Miller said.
“We define and try to begin to understand anti-Semitism, as well as its connections to other types of bias and racism,” Ms. Miller said. “We look at the historical context of anti-Semitism, especially the events surrounding the Holocaust and World War II, as well as contemporary anti-Semitism. We bring in examples of lesson plans, resources for them to use in the classroom right now. The goal is to address what is happening in schools right now.
“Many teachers are lacking the historical context to understand anti-Semitism. Many don’t understand how anti-Semitism has presented itself historically, so sometimes contemporary manifestations are able to slip under the wire. They don’t understand why something connects to historical anti-Semitism. Accusations of dual loyalty is one example.”
About 50 people attended the March training, including many school superintendents.
Ms. Miller’s presentation included a theoretical discussion of how bias works, as well as immediately practical matters.
“We learned about the different kind of problems that can be reported,” Ms. Noveck said. “Most of the time, if you think it should be reported, it should be. We were encouraged to always report.”
Ms. Noveck said the federation works with school superintendents when there’s an episode of anti-Semitism in their schools. “We help them when something goes awry in their own school district. We’re here to support them continuing their education in how to deal with these situations.”
Ms. Noveck said that anti-Semitic incidents in schools often involves juveniles.
“Our goal is not to harm them. We want to help them move forward in their lives, and eradicate the hate,” she said.
“A lot of time it’s juveniles acting out for one reason or another. Swastikas on the wall are done by juveniles. You don’t hear about the conclusion of the case.”
She said the federation is working to bring anti-prejudice programs into public school systems.
“We would love to see a program put in the curriculum to teach about bias and hate,” she said.
What: Addressing Anti-Semitism Through Education Training
Who should attend: Middle school and high school teachers and educators
Where: Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus
Taught by: Abigail Miller of the Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education in Suffern
When: Wednesday, May 15, 4 to 6 p.m.