Nestled between Wrigley Field and Lake Michigan, in the neighborhood of Lakeview, there stands the beautiful synagogue Anshe Emet Synagogue. With its gorgeous stained glass windows, friendly faces and overall welcoming environment, it is truly a place of meaningful experiences. On a Sunday morning earlier this year, with some educational help from the Anti-Defamation League, for a group of young Jewish adults those meaningful experiences became powerful as well.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a program in place known as "Confronting Anti-Semitism" that helps to educate and provide tools for young adults between their bar and bat mitzvah age and when they leave for college. The program is designed to give true awareness and the full scope of what anti-Semitism is and how it affects the world-as well as individuals-today. By understanding anti-Semitism, the ADL hopes to provide these young adults with knowledge and therefore power over it with tools and tactics to be used in real life situations.
Facilitated by David Kurzmann, assistant regional director of the ADL, and Sonya Jacobs Morgan, assistant director of Development at the ADL, the group received a lesson on anti-Semitism that was very real, powerful, scary, and necessary. The program is designed with the purpose to get the participants involved and create constructive dialogue.
First and foremost, a conversation is started by having everyone come up with their own definition of anti-Semitism. How it looks. How it sounds. How it feels. Once that definition is in place, it is compared to a very technical definition of the term, thus providing an overall enlightenment of the topic at hand. Knowing what anti-Semitism is provides the first step to taking serious action.
To help the understanding of anti-Semitism even further, a handout was given with a diagram of The Pyramid of Hate. The pyramid is one that chronicles the spectrum of anti-Semitism from common bias to genocide. This puts a lot of perspective towards the variety of forms anti-Semitism can unfortunately come in, but also gives an honest look as to what forms are more prevalent day to day.
With full understanding firmly in place, Kurzmann and Morgan then displayed tactics in dealing with and responding to anti-Semitism. They showcased real life examples that were all rooted in the concept of halting a conversation, taking a step back, and then enabling techniques to get past those moments in a respectful manner. Not only is the intention here to battle anti-Semitism head on, but it is also to provide opportunity in developing dialogues and understandings with those who may not be as well informed with the harm their anti-Semitism is causing, no matter how funny they think they are being. Overall, these skills lend themselves to progressively go about dealing with these situations instead of avoiding them.
Nearing the end, a conversation was started as to what the group took away from their experiences in the program. Participants were asked how a difference can be made in not only their own lives, but that of their peers as well. However, it was made clear that the idea of anti-Semitism being truly absent from the world is a near impossibility. Therefore, Kurzmann pointed out that when it comes down to it, this program is meant to provide knowledge for combating anti-Semitism in a progressive manner even if only on an individual basis. While it's not necessarily saving the world, it is at the very least making a better one.
For more information about the Anti-Defamation League, visit www.adl.org or www.myadlchicago.org.
Adam Daniel Miller is a writer and Oy!Chicago blogger living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at TheMindOfADM.