In addition to teaching at Schiff, I also teach 8th grade at the Diamond Family Religious School of Temple Emanu-El on Sunday mornings. I have worked with teens for years and love learning from the young adults in our community.
Last week, I sat with my students intending to have a brief conversation about their experiences attending the Social Action Local Action Mini-Conference at Temple Emanu-El the week prior. What happened blew my mind and has been spinning in my head ever since.
Many of my students attended a session on hate. The session included a panel discussion with representatives from Interfaith Community Initiatives, Inc., The Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, and Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism (AIAAS). It was a great session. I was there, but my students told me they felt like it was more for adults, and then they told me about their experiences, and my heart stopped.
My 8th graders told me about swastikas in their school bathrooms. They told me about teachers who won’t talk about it because it is too political. They told me about “friends” who draw swastikas in front of them and make jokes about Jews. They told me that it is no big deal. They told me they are used to it, that it is their normal.
This isn’t normal, and it is not ok. It got me thinking about the messages our kids are seeing, young and old, and what our words and actions say about our beliefs. And then I saw THIS ARTICLE in Kveller. It seems pretty basic, don’t sell clothes that remind people of Nazis, but apparently, reminders are needed.
I am still reeling from my conversations, but I have hope that in nine or ten years I will be teaching the current Schiff kids in my 8th grade class, and I hope that through education, action, awareness, and a willingness to talk about the issue, that I will never again have the same conversation with teens I had last week.