Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the second night, we will hear from Laura about her experience with Student to Student.
My name is Laura Bellows, and I am representing Student to Student on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) this year. Student to Student fosters meaningful conversations with non-Jewish students for them to better understand Judaism and the Jewish people. I became increasingly interested in this work when my eighth-grade teacher posed the following question to our class: “If you were given all the money in the world, how would you stop antisemitism?”
The impetus for his question was the recent bombings and threats against Jewish organizations at the time that made us all fearful. I realized then I was passionate about helping to find a way to end antisemitism through education and advocacy. As a sophomore, I joined the Student to Student program. A program that embodied everything I needed to succeed in accomplishing my goal to end anti-Semitism. This program takes us to schools throughout Illinois and neighboring states to explain our lives as Jews. Our goal was to find common ground with teens of other faiths and cultures, while sharing our common dreams. In this way, anti-Semitic views are challenged.
As a part of this program there are informative sessions. At one of these sessions, my fellow presenters and I had the privilege to listen to Dr. Malka Simkovitch, who talked to us about historical anti-Semitism and interfaith dialogue. She was very informative and taught me a lot. At this session, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt who is an historian, author, and professor at Emory University spoke as well. She is an author on combatting Holocaust denial, and she spoke a lot about how to discuss the events of the Holocaust and antisemitism. Both speakers gave me transformative advice to be a better leader for Student to Student!
About the Author: Laura is a senior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. If not on the basketball court or soccer field, she is actively involved in the Chicagoland Jewish community. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and participating in Student to Student among other extracurriculars.