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Students Battle Discrimination

When you see someone being bullied, what do you do?

When you hear racist remarks, how do you react?

When you are subjected to discrimination, how do you respond?

These are the questions focused on by the Anti Defamation League (ADL). The goal of ADL is to create a world without hatred and without acts of prejudice. It teaches the youth of America to stand up to an oppressor, to speak up to someone who is essentially being a bully.

This week, Hebrew Academy students Tehila Moore (11th) and Rina Reich (11th) went to an ADL conference in Washington, D.C. They were paired with eight other teenagers from South Florida, and 127 teenagers from all around the U.S. They were broken up and put into specific groups for a breakout session. In the breakout sessions, a facilitator would talk to 24 of us about certain thoughts on why someone gets bullied, and reactions to people who are showing prejudice toward you or someone around you.

“It was amazing and an extremely positive experience for me, and I made so many new friends from many walks of life,” said Moore. “I learned how to be a leader and combat discrimination with love and composure.”

Most of what was discussed at the conference was based off of the Holocaust. It was used as a backbone to learn how to encounter people in situations of discrimination. Students went to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. to learn about how the mass genocide occurred, starting from before the war began until liberation. By following the Holocaust year by year, step by step, they understood how any tragedy like the Holocaust could escalate that way.

During one of the breakout sessions, the facilitator introduced the Pyramid of Hate. It begins with bias as a foundation, such as stereotyping and belittling jokes. Then comes individual acts of prejudice: bullying and name calling. After is discrimination, then bias-motivated violence (murder, assault, vandalism, terrorism), and finally genocide.

Notice how it quickly escalated, how it parallels to the Holocaust. It began as just talk of hating the Jews, then they had to walk around with a star on their chests and were segregated from the people of their countries. There were assaults on businesses, synagogues, etc. And then the concentration camps formed. The ADL teaches the importance of stopping it from the beginning, at the source. If you cut off the foundation, there won’t be any support or room for it to escalate.

There is a famous quote saying, “History is doomed to repeat itself.” This can be prevented. If everyone takes it upon themselves to speak up, not conform to the general norm (if it’s negative), and stand by the victims side, lives will be saved and bad situations won’t occur.

The children are the future. We are the future. It is crucial for us to understand the Pyramid of Hate, to stop it at its roots. Just by standing up to acts of bullying or prejudice, even if they seem incredibly small and unimportant, the world will change for the better.

By: Rina Reich (11th grade)

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