Let’s Talk About It: Antisemitism at Grace

“Yeladim Shel Chesed.” Media provided by Managing Editor, Olivia Berger ’22.

Anti-semitism is topic that is often overlooked within the Grace community in favor of other social issues. Unfortunately, anti-semitic comments have become common and ignored in recent years. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish communities (along with many other marginalized groups) were targeted as scapegoats and were blamed for the spread of the virus. According to ADL, there were 1,242 reported harassment incidents, 751 reported vandalism incidents, and 31 reports of assault in 2020 alone. 

Rena N. ‘22, Co-Leader of Yeladim Shel Chesed (the Jewish Affinity Space), stated, “The biggest way in which antisemitism has affected me is through microaggressions and overall ignorance within the community. I cannot count the amount of times people have said antisemetic things to me, but I have not wanted to or been able to speak up because Grace has not been accepting of those conversations.” Because these comments have become so normalized, Jewish students are afraid to speak out. 

Perhaps the most common form of anti-semitism that many Jewish people have experienced is microagressions such as rude jokes or comments on peoples’ appearences. 

In an interview, Mr. Steven Zaretsky, the Advisor for Yeladim Shel Chesed, emphasized: “Jewish jokes might appear to be harmless, but [they] are actually quite hurtful. Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard many of the students in the Jewish Affinity Space talk about Jewish jokes they’ve heard.” 

The most commonly heard jokes are comments about peoples’ noses and jokes about Jews being greedy and vain. 

Microaggressions are often belittled because they’re so small that many people believe them to be insignificant. On the contrary, they tend to hurt even more than someone outwardly stating that they’re anti-semitic. Many people ignorantly believe that if they don’t come out and say that they’re biased or racist, these microaggressions don’t count. They believe the false notion that they can hide behind their “harmless” jeers. 

Antonia K. ‘24, another Co-Leader of Yeladim Shel Chesed, stated, “I was by one of the Mitzvah Mobiles and someone was like ‘there are your people, go to them.’” 

These kinds of comments not only degrade Jewish students at Grace but also make fun of Jewish people as a group. 

While anti-semitic comments are harmful enough on their own, the fact that Grace barely talks about these issues makes the situation even worse. When these “jokes” are ignored, it makes anti-semites feel that they are allowed to continue with their ways and encourages the idea that people can say harmful things without any consequences. 

Another extremely common topic in our school is jokes about the Holocaust. Teachers often use the Holocaust as a comparison point to other atrocious moments in history, but they rarely take the time to dive into the horrifying events that took place. By comparing the amount of deaths in the Holocaust to deaths of other events, it feels like teachers turn the event into a statistic used to lift up other historical events. 

Everyone in our school must be more willing to think about and accept the feelings of their Jewish peers. We must become better at speaking out against all types of social issues, no matter how insignificant people may believe them to be.

If you have experienced harassment from other students or from faculty members, consider contacting your dean, Student Support Guides, or any trusted adult for help.