Shavua Tov: No Despair

There has been much community conversation about the rise of anti-Semitism as of late. Gann students in 2020 are confronting many more overtly anti-Semitic remarks and acts than I did when we were growing up in the 1980s. From swastikas in Newton, to the derogatory comments Gann students have received about their Kippot, our students face a different and more challenging reality.

And yet, working with teenagers, I am reminded daily of the incredible capacity young people possess for positivity. In the face of despair, our students refuse to do so; instead, they innovate and think creatively. One place we see this bold innovation is in our seniors’ capstone projects, which we call Ma’avar. Ma’avar (meaning transition or bridge) allows students to pursue and engage with topics of their own interest and choosing, to ask questions about which they feel passionate, and to develop creative answers and solutions to those questions. For her Ma’avar project this spring, Gillian '20, will be developing a teen-to-teen hotline for students who need help confronting anti-Semitism. Gillian will be researching other teen hotline models, benchmarking the costs and marketing structures, and building a real-world solution to anti-Semitism. In particular, Gillian is considering how students who do not attend Jewish schools and who may feel isolated, can reach out to trained peers who can help them navigate anti-Semitism. 
 
When I asked Gillian what her inspiration was for her Ma’avar Project, she said the following:
 
This past summer I participated in a Holocaust education program that brought me to Germany and Poland. While walking through the camps Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz, I saw the results of where anti-Semitism can lead. This indescribable experience of stepping into the place where so many normal, everyday people suffered sparked my commitment to fighting against anti-Semitism. We already lost over 6 million lives in the Holocaust and countless more since then. How much more pain can we endure before taking action?
 
January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Now is the perfect time to begin taking action and standing up against anti-Semitism. We are one of the few Jewish schools in this area. If we don’t take action, who will? Remembering and acknowledging is important, but we need to act. If we are the ones to speak up, we can inspire awareness in others. The more anti-Semitism and other acts of racism and bigotry are ignored, the closer we come to having another atrocity like the Holocaust.
 
This call to action is something I am planning on tying into my Ma’avar project. For this project, I would like to establish a support line for students, teens, and anyone else who needs it, a place where they can go to report acts of anti-Semitism they’ve experienced. Whether they need advice on how to respond, or just need some support, this would be a safe place to speak up for yourself and others.
 
Gillian and her classmates are taking action. They do not despair. And I do not despair either. I am proud to be part of a school community where students’ ideas are supported and their voices heard, a place where students can and do feel empowered to repair our world, to help make it the place they wish it to be.
 
Shavua Tov! 
 
Dr. Dalia Hochman
Head of School
 
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