Teens gathered to learn about combating antisemitism at the JCCNS in Marblehead on April 28./JCCNS

North Shore Antisemitism Task Force hosts first event

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North Shore Antisemitism Task Force hosts first event

Teens gathered to learn about combating antisemitism at the JCCNS in Marblehead on April 28./JCCNS

Late last month, the North Shore Antisemitism Task Force held the first event of what they hope will be many, teaching teens to combat antisemitism.

The Task Force, which was founded by concerned Jewish parents, teachers and community leaders on the North Shore in December following Oct. 7, hosted the event with TribeTalk, the Boston-based organization that aims to educate and empower Jewish teens and allies to address situations regarding antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on campus. It was titled “Standing Strong: Empowering Teens to Recognize and Respond to Antisemitism.”

This aligns very closely with the mission of the Task Force, with their focus being specifically for North Shore teens to “identify, confront, and combat antisemitism when faced with anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and Jew Hatred in their schools, communities, and online social networks.”

Sarah Plymate is one of the members of the eight-person leadership team. “We’re a small group of people but we do want to make an impact,” she said. The other leaders of the group are Brigitte Karns, Leslie Smith Rosen, Coree Dovev, Eugene Schultz, Jonathan Dubow, Marjorie Patkin, and Joel Abramson. Many of the group leaders are also involved in other activist work, including pushback against the anti-Israel curricula being circulated in the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Plymate said she and her colleagues have been concerned with what they’ve been witnessing on campuses across age groups and regions – from elementary schools all the way up to college – which is why they are focusing on teens specifically.

“There’s definitely a spike in antisemitism in the younger age group, in young adults,” she said. “And [there has been a] rise in sentiments of not aligning with Israel at all. So we want to prepare our kids, the younger generation, for that.”

The TribeTalk event was supported by 16 other local and regional organizations, including New England ADL, CJP, and the Jewish Teen Initiative.

Robin Friedman, an attorney and co-founder of TribeTalk, came to the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore to host the session, which drew more than 70 participants – just under half of whom were teens and the other half parents and interested adults. Teens came from Hamilton, North Andover, Swampscott, Marblehead, Peabody and other towns. There were students from Gann Academy in Waltham, the Swampscott High ADL, and non-Jewish students from St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers and St. Mary’s in Lynn.

Jeremy Sorkin, a 17-year-old Marblehead High student, said he attended the event because he wanted to learn about the history of antisemitism so that he could be a “knowledgeable teen” in his community, and “stick up for what’s right.”

Sorkin learned the history of antisemitism, as told through the real-world examples Friedman provided, from early Christianity up through present day. He and his peers were given opportunities to discuss what they thought was antisemitic about the examples presented, and then given opportunities to explore ways they could potentially respond, in a real-life scenario.

“What was really great about that is that they were coming together to discuss it,” said Plymate. “Here is an event that actually happened, and there was an actual response to it, and they were able to use critical thinking skills to think about what they think the correct response would be.”

The students were also encouraged to think about what it meant to stand strong in their own identities, something that might look different depending on the teen. “Maybe that would be confronting it, or maybe that would be walking away from it,” said Plymate. Either way, the goal the students were taught to aim for was “having a strong sense of having done what was right for them.”

“I learned not to always call someone with the opposing opinion as you antisemitic,” Sorkin said. “But to rather take a step back and listen to what they have to say, and then offer my commentary if I think what they’re saying is antisemitic.”

Now that the event is over, the Task Force is looking forward to a meeting they have planned with District Attorney Paul Tucker.

In addition to the TribeTalk event, the group has also held meetings with the Swampscott High School ADL group and the Jewish Student Union there, as well as with Melissa Garlick, director of Combating Antisemitism and Building Civic Engagement within CJP.

“TribeTalk, organized by the Antisemitism Task Force of the North Shore and supported by [CJP’s Center for Combating Antisemitism], teaches students how to recognize antisemitism on apparent and subliminal levels, how to respond, and coaches them to persevere with resilience,” Garlick told the Journal. “Events like [this] are crucial reminders that educating ourselves and each other is an ongoing obligation to combat hatred, dismantle antisemitism, and promote understanding despite our differences.” Θ

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