I attend a large high school with a diverse student population, and I am proud to say students tend to be accepting and tolerant of each other’s differences. That said, one consequence of this diversity is that our school has a relatively small Jewish population. There have been some mild Jewish-oriented jokes, but generally nothing above the level of regular teenage banter and dialogue. In the vast majority of situations in and around my school community, I feel comfortable about my identity.
However, being one of the few Jewish students in any given classroom, I have developed a heightened sensitivity to academic coverage of antisemitism in our history. For example, I am taking AP United States History (APUSH) this year, and I happen to sit next to one of my best friends, who also happens to be a fellow BBYO. Much too often, there is a lesson taught that involves some antisemitic behavior in our country or the global community at large. My friend and I are two of the few Jewish members of our class, and we find ourselves experiencing these lessons through a different lens than many of our classmates, who (through no fault of their own) do not feel what we feel at the time. When these instances arise during the class lesson, my friend and I always look at each other in sadness. The prejudice that our people have faced, even in recent history, is hard for us to hear, and even more difficult as we learn more details.
This reaction is not unique to us, of course, as our class contains students of many ethnic, racial, and religious groups who have all been affected by different historical events. Our reaction to historical antisemitism has given us insight into other people’s feelings as they bear witness to discrimination in their culture’s respective histories. Discrimination is a terrible and enduring part of our society, not just for its immediate impact on segments of the population, but for the way it is carried on and then taught to future students and observers. No person should have to be upset while learning about their history, but we cannot change the past. The only thing we can do is make sure no children cringe or experience feelings of sadness when they learn about the way their race or religion is treated in 2020 and onward.
Sophie Poritzky is a BBG from L'dor Vador BBG #2559 in Manhattan Region and is obsessed with Harry Potter.
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