NFTY15: Knowledge Key to Fighting Anti-Semitism

NFTY15: Knowledge Key to Fighting Anti-Semitism

By Jon Gargis Photo by Jon Gargis – Jacob Markey tells NFTYites Feb. 15 details of the weekend synagogue shooting in Copenhagen that killed a Jewish man.

While Jewish teens were taking part in the NFTY Convention in downtown Atlanta, a pair of shootings thousands of miles away in Copenhagen on Saturday evening and early Sunday killed a member of Denmark’s Jewish community and another man and wounded five police officers.

The incident, little more than a month after four Jewish men were slain at a kosher supermarket in Paris, was news to some of the teens who took part in a NFTY breakout session titled “Today’s Anti-Semitism in Europe and Denying the Holocaust” Sunday afternoon.

“Unfortunately, this is a pattern that’s been going on. It’s been getting worse and escalating,” said NFTY’s Jacob Markey, one of the two presenters of the session. He shared details of the incident with those in attendance.

Leading the presentation was Rabbi Sandford Kopnick of the Valley Temple of Cincinnati. He shared details of January’s three-day reign of terror in France that included the shooting at the offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo and the slayings at the kosher supermarket.

Rabbi Kopnick had participants close their eyes as they listened to a news report about France experiencing an increase in anti-Semitic attacks, including an incident late last year in which three masked men robbed a young Jewish couple in their home and said, “You Jews have money.”

The woman was raped during the robbery.

The rabbi said last summer’s Israeli military operation in Gaza seems to have been a catalyst for violence against Jews and a wave of anti-Semitism.

“This past summer, because of what went on in Israel, seemed to unleash some stuff that was simmering beneath the surface. It’s not that it created new stuff; it’s that people felt a little more emboldened to start talking about Jews differently than they have been,” he said.

Rabbi Kopnick later showed a video clip on anti-Semitism in Europe. He then asked the teens whether they thought that anti-Semitic sentiments would get worse in Europe or the United States. Most raised their hands to indicate a belief that anti-Semitism would get worse in both parts of the world.

A few said they have seen it get worse already in the States. One girl said someone tied a noose on a swing set at her congregation a few years ago. Last year, she said, vandals broke a window.
“They’re just getting more and more violent in my area already,” she said.

The presentation also examined the issue of Holocaust deniers, who Rabbi Kopnick said are found most often in two places students go: the Internet and the college campus.

Markey said students should ignore those online who spend their time denying the Holocaust or spreading hatred.

“There are people — Internet trolls — out there that do these sort of things,” he said. Debating them “is not going to be productive.”

Rabbi Kopnick advised knowing which websites present accurate information and which ones are fake sources and helping others understand the difference.

When a group schedules a Holocaust denial event on a college campus, Rabbi Kopnick said, students should try to do something bigger and better rather than go to the event to debate.

“My challenge to you is to learn as much as you can about Judaism, so when somebody wants to say something stupid, you are coming from a place of knowledgeable Judaism,” he said. “Have great, meaningful relationships with all kinds of people so that when they say something about a Jew, they’re saying something about you, and they’re going to think twice.”

Both presenters urged students once they get to college to find their allies quickly in case issues arise.

“It’s everybody’s love of their congregation that keeps them from Hillel. … Make that community early so that if, G-d forbid, you need that community later, it’s not the first time you’re showing up there,” Rabbi Kopnick said. “Establish yourself there even if you’re not going to go there every week, go once or twice in that first semester so that you know them, they know you, so that when you get there, if you need to feel safe, you’re going to feel safer if you know them than if you don’t.”

“Jewish communities where you go to college, they are there to help. They are there to deal with these situations,” Markey said. “Find your allies, find the people, the power in numbers that you can do things with in great ways.”


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