Eliminating Anti-Semitism; One Relationship At A Time
Growing up in a Jewish Community meant always being surrounded by a familiar tradition and practice. I went to a Jewish middle school during the week and attended synagogue on Shabbat. I would go through the motions of my everyday life nonchalantly, uninterested in the outside world which always seemed so foreign and irrelevant to me. It was not until I had experienced my first few encounters with anti-semtism that I would turn to the rest of the world and wonder: How come I, as a Jewish person, receive so much hate?
I struggled to answer this question throughout eighth grade and the beginning of high school. It bothered me that Jewish people around the world were constantly being persecuted and attacked yet, the world seemed to just stand by and observe without taking action. I wanted to defend myself and my religion but I did not know how.
Luckily, in my sophomore year of high school, my school launched a program called Student to Student. Inspired by a similar program in St. Louis, Student to Student aimed to educate and inform non-Jewish teenagers about Judaism. By having Jewish teenagers interact with other teenagers who shared little knowledge about Judaism, a relationship was formed that served to fight anti-semitism by simply connecting with the other teens.
I joined the program as soon as I had heard about it and after my first few presentations at public schools in Naperville and Catholic schools in Mount Prospect, I felt confident about my ability to defend myself and my religion. I encountered difficult questions that challenged my knowledge and I saw teenagers of a different faith interacting with me as they listened to what I had to share.
After almost two full years of presenting to students at various different schools, I realized that I had entered a completely different world than the one in which I had grown up in. Student to Student had taught me that combating anti-semtism does not just occur in a classroom, rather it is a daily mission that can be fought anywhere in the world. As a Jewish teenager living in the United States, it is my responsibility to present myself to society as a mature and educated person. My character is a representation of the Jewish people and it is my responsibility to be a good influence and example on behalf of our nation.
The most important lesson that I have learned from my time educating, inspiring, and informing others is that ignorance is the root of anti-semitism especially in society today. If one does not know anything about a different person their minds instantly form preconceived notions about them based on their looks, background, and personality. When it comes to anti-semitism, most poeple are uneducated and lack understanding of how Judaism is observed. This is the fundamental basis of modern anti-semtism. I have interacted with over a thousand students by now and whenever I present to a different group, I can see the understanding build up in their minds. I can see them start to rethink certain ideas that might have encompassed before about Jewish people. The relationship that is created between me and another teen is crucial in preventing the spread of anti-semitism.
In my time with Student to Student I have engaged with many students and educators and I have allowed my ability to connect and teach people to flow beyond the classroom and into my daily life. Whether it is participating in sports events or attending a concert, my influence and my reach goes further than anything that I could have envisioned. The relationships that I have formed over the years with countless individuals shows me that there is a way to fight anti-semtism. There is a way to stop the hate. As a Jewish teen, it is my responsibility to advocate for myself and my religion as every relationship that I form has the potential to change the mindset and perspective of countless others. We can stop the hate. It only takes one voice to make a difference in this world.
Ethan Comrov is a junior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. He plays basketball and soccer and runs cross country. He is also a board member of his schools Israel Advocacy Club as well as being an adamant participant of Chicago’s Student to Student organization. Ethan is currently the Vice-President of Education for Midwest NCSY. Ethan is passionate about Israel advocacy and education.