Friday, March 22, 2019

A School Visit for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On March 21, I was invited for the second time as a guest speaker for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21 at Balwin School in north Edmonton. My talk was very similar to the one I gave last year, focussing on anti-bullying, anti-Semitism, and activism.

This year, I added am emphasis on calling out and stopping racist and prejudicial comments immediately, to prevent them from becoming normalized and becoming the start of a path of hatred. We've seen what unchecked hatred can do with the recent terrorist attack at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year.

Some of the young people in the multiracial class shared their experiences encountering racism, but also asked me a lot of questions about being Jewish, mostly about cultural and religious practices. I was apparently the first person most of them had ever met who self-identified as being Jewish. Even their teacher and the student teacher were asking me questions.

Opportunities like this are really important because these young people now could put a face and name to the word "Jewish." Much racism and prejudice often comes from fear of the "other." Now, a Jewish person is no longer an "other" to them. When we get to meet people from different backgrounds, and we sincerely seek to learn about their lives and traditions, it helps to build intercultural understanding, peace, and harmony in our society.

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