On Wednesday, July 29, Hofstra Hillel welcomed Nancy Kaplan and Stephanie Merkrebs from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to Hofstra University, where the two spoke about anti-Semitism on college campuses. Nancy Kaplan, a facilitator with the Anti-Defamation League and Stephanie Merkrebs, assistant regional director, introduced their program, “Words to Action”.
Anti-Semitism has become prominent in our society; just about every student raised his or her hand when Kaplan asked us if we had ever experienced anti-Semitic words or behavior. Their program works to help reduce incidents of hate, and discusses how to speak up when we see anti-Semitism. For two hours, we did activities that helped educate us on Israel and how to educate others. First, we discussed the differences between anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, and anti-Zionism. It is crucial to distinguish what an action is in order to form a response. We went through scenarios and defined whether the action or person was anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or anti-Zionist. In short, anti-Israel is defined as biased perspectives directed against Israel. We see this when people discuss Israeli conflicts and make accusations without knowing all the facts. Whereas Anti-Semitism is discrimination against Jews, anti-Zionism is the prejudice against the idea that Jewish people have a homeland in the State of Israel.
We were split into groups where we were given more scenarios, and not only categorized the action, but also explained how we would respond, what our goal in responding was, and the positive and negative ways they could react. Most of the responses included reaching out to our peers and educating them on the facts about Israel and stopping jokes about Jewish stereotypes. The goals were mainly to reduce anti-Semitic behavior, and educate people about Israel and its history. We know there will always be negative outcomes when expressing our thoughts towards people that are unfortunately blocked by discrimination. We also know that education is the key to changing people’s perspectives.
The event ended with Kaplan asking us to say one thing we can commit to doing when we encounter anti-Semitic behavior. We went around the room responding. From becoming more educated on Israel or standing up to the anti-Semitic attitudes we see all around us. All in all, we agreed that our main goal is to inform our peers and rid our world of the prejudice. Because hate does not help the world, and like the Anti-Defamation League states, “Imagine a world without hate”.