Antisemitism rises, teachers advocate for acceptance


Meredith Wu

The ARHS community recognizes and responds to the recent increase in antisemitism by working to create a safe environment for all students and families.

Emily Harmon, Assistant Online Editor

Members of the ARHS community advocate to ensure that its Jewish community always feels welcome and safe, especially in the wake of an increase in antisemitic remarks, including recent tweets from musical artist Ye.

Recently, Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has been denounced for antisemitic comments online, specifically on Twitter. Antisemitism, which is hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people, has been on the rise in recent years with 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the United States reported in 2021 alone, according to ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents

Social Studies Department Head Brittany Burns teaches the Holocaust and Human Behavior course, which discusses antisemitism and its impacts in the past and present.

“The goal of the Holocaust and Human Behavior course is to look at what it means to live together in a society and what our responsibilities are to each other as human beings,” Burns said.

Burns emphasizes the impact of hateful comments and prejudice aimed towards Jewish people on individuals.

“People are saying these things, repeating these old myths and tropes that are just insidious and used throughout history,” Burns said. “For people who are Jewish, when you hear that or see that, there’s a very personal hurt that happens, that is generational and historical.”

Burns believes the other impact of these antisemitic comments extends to the entire nation. 

“I think more broadly as a community, when we start tolerating, excusing or ignoring hateful language like that, it breaks down something really fundamental in our community and in our country,” Burns said.

English Language Development teachers Selvi Oyola and Suzanne Stimson are the advisers of ARHS’s A World of Difference program, an extension of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Addressing and helping to prevent antisemitism and discrimination in general is part of ADL’s mission.

“ADL is an organization that brings in curriculum to empower students and train them to promote inclusivity and diversity,” Oyola said.

ADL student mentors are currently holding workshops for sophomore students, which include exploring what bias, stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination are.

“Every workshop we have, we localize it back to the school and how [the topic] fits into our community,” Stimson said.

By hosting these sessions, ARHS promotes an accepting and inclusive community, which the organization hopes ultimately spreads across the globe.

“By having these common definitions in our community, we are able to have clearer conversations about these difficult topics,” Oyola said. “And that, hopefully, is a step towards preventing any kind of antisemitism.”

Senior Aaron Hafiani has been an ADL student mentor for over a year and is dedicated to preventing hateful language in our community.

“I think in any case, the overgeneralization of any group, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, is wrong because individuals always have their own respective, distinct aspects of their lives,” Hafiani said. “To group people together in that way is going to be hurtful.”

Hafiani has been a fan of Ye’s music for a while, but is now faced with a challenging decision.

“I’ve got the shoes at home and I’ve got the clothes at home,” Hafiani said. “But, is this someone I can continue to support after hearing these statements? It’s really tough and I think it’s a person-to-person decision to make.”

Hafiani believes that in order to make lasting changes, it is extremely important to educate others about the recent spike of antisemitism. 

“If your friends don’t know about the subject or all the facts about it and you can sit down with them and have a conversation about it, that can be really helpful,” Hafiani said.

Junior Jack Mazur is actively involved in the Jewish community and was a member of the former Algonquin Friends of Israel club.

“This [hate speech] can increase anti-semitism because these people, like Kanye, are some of the most influential people in the world, and the fact that they’re going out and saying these things, people are going to think it’s okay,” Mazur said.

A new idea being spread online is “separating the art from the artist,” which suggests that it may be excusable to listen to Ye’s music, while not supporting his actions. However, Mazur believes listening to Ye’s music supports him and his ideas.

“The artist is part of what fuels his music and who knows what his future in music is going to be like, or if he’s even going to have a future in music,” Mazur said. “The non-Jewish people and everyone else who’s listening to him is just going to feed [Ye’s ideas and ego] and make them think that this is okay, when in reality, it’s not.”