Combating Antisemitism through Comprehensive Holocaust Education

I am scared. As a Jewish teenager in the United States, I enter a world where bigotry and antisemitism run rampant. Teenagers in Wisconsin jokingly give Nazi salutes, Jews are attacked in grocery stores, and celebrities like Kanye West, with bigger platforms than there are Jews, tweet, “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death (sic) con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” Since I was a little girl, it was the norm to feel threatened. However, until recently, I never understood what drove the forces behind modern antisemitism.

Much of the antisemitism Jewish people endure is driven by stereotypes about Jews that have been ingrained in the American psyche. According to a recent survey released by the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism today shows itself in the form of harmful tropes, such as 85% of Americans believing at least one antisemitic trope is true. One trope I have noticed within the UPrep community is that Jews have too much influence and power. Therefore, comprehensive Holocaust education is essential to aid in addressing the rise in antisemitism in America.

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned Americans are unaware of the antisemitic prejudices they harbor. My experience as a Jew at UPrep has not been positive. A peer once asked why all Jews are so wealthy. Another peer, upon receiving the results of a DNA test and finding out that they are 2% Jewish, asked me if they could now make Holocaust jokes. Questions like these indicate how normalized antisemitism is. This ignorance is partly the result of a failed and incomprehensive education.

I believe, though, that University Prep has the ability to become a safer place. Our teachers must help protect their Jewish students by teaching comprehensive Holocaust education. Holocaust education encourages not only the skill of critical thinking but the ability to understand the impacts that discrimination, particularly antisemitism, can have. I am confident that if we had sufficient Holocaust education, my classmates would recognize that many of the “harmless” jokes they make are blatant antisemitic rhetoric.

Our community has the ability to be at the forefront of comprehensive Holocaust education, yet we are failing. Aside from a brief week of reading excerpts from “Night,” almost nothing is built into our history curriculum. However, we have many resources at our disposal, from survivors within our community to the local Holocaust Center. I love University Prep, so I believe we have an opportunity for introspection on how to protect our Jewish students. It is past time for a change. Comprehensive Holocaust education is crucial to helping combat the prejudice that I and many other Jews have experienced. I am sick of Holocaust education being just an afterthought. In neglecting to teach comprehensive Holocaust education, the teachers I have admired for the past seven years are failing me and every single one of their students.