The Secret Weapon Against Anti-Semitism

1 year ago The Connections Staff 0

Yair Shpiler// Toronto, Canada

Combating anti-Semitism may seem like a daunting task. After all, who am I compared to some of these hate-driven people in the world, in our Twitter accounts, or at our high schools and college campuses? We would all be lying if we said that we aren’t worried witnessing the sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents, from the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories to the increase in popularity of organizations and movements such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

So how can we take action and combat it? The answer lies in education. Before you dismiss this as banal, let me explain why it is absolutely correct.

What better tool can we individually and collectively use to counter anti-Semitism than education? How can we expect to intellectually influence the opinions of others if we are not confident in our own beliefs, opinions, and knowledge that we’ve developed and acquired over the years? We must continue learning and expanding our knowledge on the matter if we wish to win the war of Hasbara — or public diplomacy.

That is exactly the approach that my CTeen chapter of Machon Chai Toronto adopted. In partnership with Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs — two large pro-Israel advocacy organizations — we launched a one-of-a-kind eight week seminar suited for Jewish teens called “Jewish Israeli Identity course.” Over 40 teens attended in-person and an additional 20 teens joined us via Zoom on a weekly basis to learn from expert guest speakers about topics such as Jewish indigeneity, Jewish and Israeli history, anti-Semitism in the Arab world, the BDS movement and more.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, famously said that “education that is merely concerned with the transmission of information is doomed to failure. It must serve a more noble purpose of cultivating a student’s moral character.” With that being said, our “Jewish Israeli Identity course” did not only aim to equip the participating youth with knowledge and methods to combat anti-Semitism online or in their schools, but it also aimed for Jewish teens to recognize and be proud of their own Jewish and historical heritage. The teens cultivated their moral character by engaging in guided discussions led by our CTeen Rabbi, Benny Kamchaji, learning about the Jewish perspective of our individual and national identity, our soul, our land and our G-d which are connected through Jewish knowledge and observance.

Do not get discouraged and think that you need to create a similar course in your chapter. While that would be a terrific idea (and I would love to advise fellow CTeen leaders around the world about the process), there are many ways to combat anti-Semitism, just like there are many different ways it can be expressed and manifested in our lives.

Education is key to almost everything in our lives and I believe it is no different when it comes to combating anti-Semitism. With education, we can take small but significant acts such as picking up a book to educate ourselves on the topic, join a webinar or a community event or advocate using social media. With such acts, we can all start having authentic conversations with our friends and family, share our knowledge, and advocate for what is true and important for us.