The Colleyville, Texas attack is a tragic reminder that hate still lives amongst our community, and it can especially be upsetting for our teens. However, antisemitism doesn’t always show up as bluntly as it did at Congregation Beth Israel; today, it can appear in many forms, including your teen’s school, neighborhood, social media, and sports teams. Many teens are unprepared for how to identify or combat it, and it’s our responsibility as parents, educators, and community leaders to provide resources to guide them through it
Together, you and your family can identify ways to make a difference in your teen’s circles–both online and offline. Here are some ways we suggest you get started.
How Can My Teen Identify Modern Antisemitism?
Social media and recent politics seem to intensify antisemitism and how it appears in our daily lives. It’s no question that many people are using these platforms to push their own hateful agenda and ideals, and sadly, the Jewish people are often a scapegoat for societal conditions.
Your teen may encounter antisemitism in a variety of forms, including:
- Swastikas or other hate symbols appearing on or near belongings or public property
- References to KKK or other hate groups
- Antisemitic comments on social media
- Antisemetic Instagram or TikTok accounts with hate-filled content
- Ignorant or uninformed passing comments by peers
- Being singled out or ostracized for being Jewish
- Jokes about Jewish people, stereotypes or tradition
The first step is to talk to your teen about these identifiers and see if they have any questions about how it could be appearing in their lives. Creating an open dialogue and a comfortable space for your teen to ask questions and share their experiences is crucial in this process, and this is a great place to start.
Standing Up to Antisemitism
Teens have the power to help other teens learn and grow. Confronting a hurtful or mean remark early on may help individuals understand the harm of their words.
If the comments or actions of others cause your teen to become uncomfortable with his or her Jewish identity, or make them feel unsafe, then the issue should be addressed immediately.
Standing up to or starting a conversation about antisemitism isn’t easy–but it is often necessary. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single response to antisemitism that will apply to every situation.
Here are four keys to successfully reacting to antisemitism:
The best way to make a good decision in a bad or emotionally charged situation is to practice your responses before something happens. You and your teen together can troubleshoot ways to handle it by role-playing or talking your teen through scenarios where it may be beneficial to start a conversation with an individual using hateful language.
Assess the Situation
Before confronting an individual, your teen should know a few things to decide how to proceed. This includes determining:
- How close you are to this person–friend, teammate, acquaintance, stranger, etc.
- The intention of the comment or action–hurtful, offensive, or made out of ignorance
- The individual’s mood/demeanor
- The emotions you teen is feeling
- If the environment is safe and you could seek help if necessary
Calmly Choose Your Response
Based on the quick assessment and practiced responses, your teen should have a good idea of how to proceed.
Remind your teen that if strong emotions are involved (from either party), it would be wise to have a cooling-off period before talking with the individual. Anger, frustration, and resentment are powerful emotions. When they take over our core, it’s nearly impossible to remain calm and rational.
Sometimes addressing an antisemitic comment can be easy as saying, “I know you didn’t mean any harm, but what you just said hurts.” This comment works two ways–you send an important message about the power of words without shaming the individual.
Other times, standing up to antisemitism isn’t as easy. And, sadly, some people won’t change no matter what is said. While they have a right to their opinion, they do not have the right to make others feel bad about who they are.
Talk to an Adult
If your teen feels unsafe because of someone’s actions, explain the importance of involving an adult like a parent, teacher, coach, or another community leader.
Opening up to an adult may be difficult for some teens. Many believe they are old enough to handle things on their own. Others don’t know how to articulate what they are feeling. Some teens don’t want to get their parents involved at all.
As a parent, your teen’s lack of communication may be frustrating. You know something is wrong, but your teen is distant or avoids specific topics.
Provide a non-judgmental, open atmosphere where your teen feels safe to talk. Some teens may benefit from counseling to help work through the sadness, anxiety, or other difficult emotions from being targeted by antisemitic behavior.
If you need more guidance and information about talking to your teen, this handout from Words to Action is an excellent resource for addressing antisemitism.
Being Proactive in Stopping Antisemitism
It’s encouraging to see many young people embracing social justice and equality for all. Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever for them to stay connected, organize events, and form tight-knit communities–both online and in-person.
Families who want to get support in addressing and challenging anti-sematism can visit the ADL resource page. Here you can find tools for talking with teens, taking action online and offline, and connecting with local groups that are exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online.
If your teen is in college, ReportCampusHate.org, is a portal to report antisemitic incidents on North American college campuses. Submissions can be anonymous, but providing contact information helps the organization assist the victim and provide support.
JBridge is also here to promote activities and clubs that work towards social justice and standing up to antisemitism, so be sure to follow us on your favorite social media platform.