“Since most Jews have last names like Gold or Silver, are all Jews rich?” I was asked this question when I was in fifth grade by one of my closest friends. At the time, I didn’t respond with anger, but rather tried to explain her misunderstanding. I did not have a name for this interaction. Now I know that my friend had very little understanding of the Jewish religion, or the diversity of our culture. She had made an assumption about my people. Part of me was very hurt by this assumption. She was one of my closest friends. I had shared many life experiences with her, yet she didn’t understand a huge portion of my identity: my Judaism.  

Later on in my educational experience, I understood her questions a little bit better. She probably had not met another Jew in her life. Although she had learned bits and pieces about the Holocaust, she likely only learned about it in the context of World War II rather than in the context of Jewish history and culture. A lack of knowledge spawns hatred and misunderstanding. Without information, many people make leaps and bounds in their thinking, creating their own narratives rather than seeking out the truth. In 2022 alone, the Anti-Defamation League reported 3, 697 antisemitic occurrences. These ranged from vandalism, assault, and even a fatal encounter. As a board, we spoke together about the rise of antisemitism in the media, especially through the words of Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), who continues to be a large proponent of hate speech. 

Being a part of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy’s Youth Philanthropy Board, we attempted to combat antisemitism in our own communities and to harness the power of education to accomplish this mission. On May 21, we came together to grant $9,000 to four organizations. I had the pleasure of being a part of the presentation. 

We chose to focus on combating antisemitism this year because many of us have felt the negative effects of such hatred. In our own communities, we often strive to combat such hatred by teaching about Judaism. Together, we explained holidays like Tu Bishvat or Yom Kippur to our teachers and peers. The notion of being the “token” Jewish friend is a very hard pill to swallow. Some of us struggle with internal needs to represent Judaism well. Perhaps we don’t want to represent Jewish culture poorly because we are afraid people might judge all Jewish people based on their experience with us. We wonder, “What if I am the only Jewish person that they meet, and through a bad encounter, they decide that all Jews are awful human beings?” These fears have informed the lived experiences of many Jews. It is certainly a hefty burden to carry.  

However, speaking about antisemitism as a board also led to a lot of healing. Many of us shared our experiences, and we were able to support each other. It was also very meaningful to see organizations like the East Valley JCC create programs like their virtual Auschwitz tours that allow schools and large businesses to connect with Auschwitz ushers who help explain the Holocaust in more detail. The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts created the Hope Chest, allowing Oskar Knoblauch’s story to reach the classrooms of thousands of students around Arizona. Arizona Jews for Justice/Valley Beit Midrash will go on to create a teen fellowship to empower young people to make a difference within their communities. The Anti-Defamation League will continue their work to battle against the hatred of Jews around the world. Meeting with these organizations created an air of hope. There are so many organizations who work towards the end of hatred, a powerful mission. Being a part of this board also gives us hope for the future, our fight for peace will never end. We are a strong Jewish people, who have survived many atrocities; yet, we thrive. We live on to tell the tale. 

In many ways, being a part of this granting journey instilled in me a deep sense of pride for my Arizona community. There will always be organizations attempting to help and make change, thus, we must always have hope. 


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