a solemn crowd holds candles
A Havdalah vigil organized by Pittsburgh high school students after a shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue drew a crowd of thousands, Oct. 27, 2018. (Photo/JTA-Ron Kampeas)

Let’s make sure impressionable young minds aren’t hijacked by hate

For the past two years, a global resurgence of anti-Semitic vandalism, speech and acts of violence have reminded us that the world’s oldest hatred isn’t going anywhere. Last year’s massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the deadly shooting at a Chabad Center in Poway, California, were surely the most shocking of wake-up calls for American Jews.

It makes the anti-Semitic incidents happening here in our own backyard all the more concerning.

Our story this week details incidents of anti-Jewish bullying and graffiti that occurred in two Burlingame public schools.

Last year at Burlingame Intermediate School, a Jewish sixth-grader was taunted with chants of “Heil Hitler” and anti-Jewish jokes. Last month at Burlingame High School, a Jewish sophomore discovered a swastika and the word “fag” scrawled in his gym locker.

Fortunately, the families, the schools and the Anti-Defamation League did not let these incidents pass unnoticed.

Both families affected immediately contacted the ADL, which swiftly did what it does best: work with the concerned parties to turn ugliness into teachable moments. Last week, the ADL helped facilitate a community town hall held at Burlingame Intermediate to shine a light on hatred and to promote inclusivity and acceptance. Earlier this year, the school held a series of “Become an Ally” assemblies focused on fighting anti-Semitism.

At Burlingame High School, the principal wrote about the incident in the school’s e-newsletter, informing parents about the locker vandalism and condemning “acts of hate.” A student journalist writing in the school’s newspaper also weighed in, demanding that the administration “do more in the face of such an act.”

We couldn’t agree more.

There is indeed much more work to be done. While one-time town halls, assemblies and condemnations are worthwhile, it’s important to remember that in this era of malicious internet activity, it’s too easy for impressionable minds to think teasing, bullying or worse is OK.

The work of countering hate is never-ending. All Jewish institutions, large and small, along with their non-Jewish allies, must continue to loudly condemn all expressions of hate, no matter whom, they are directed. And of course we applaud the ADL for fulfilling its mission so ably.

We, too, are doing our part. As we reported recently, J. is part of Documenting Hate, a coalition of newsrooms led by the nonprofit ProPublica. We invite the community to report suspected incidents of anti-Semitism, or any other expression of hate, through this form. The information will be compiled by ProPublica and entered into a national database to be used by journalists, researchers and civil rights organizations.

But for victims of hate, having a database is not enough. Acts of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia must be reported to the police and other pertinent agencies. The haters of this world think they have the momentum. It’s up to all of us to prove them wrong.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.