Rethink Teens - Confronting Anti-Semitism

According the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the newly released FBI data showed hate crimes in the U.S. jumped 17% in 2017, with a 37% spike in crimes targeting Jews and Jewish Institutions.

When a Teen is a part of religious Jewish Community, sooner or later he becomes involved in Confronting Anti-Semitism workshops, Teen training, and religious school programs. Moreover, living in “Jewish” neighborhood, a Teen might have experienced spikes of Anti-Semitism during their entire life, here and there, just because they would put a Menorah on a Window and a street stranger would break that window, or when they saw a Swastika sign drawn on a wall nearby. If you are a part of Jewish Religious Community, confronting antisemitism programs are within a reach, and widely supported by ADL, and many private and federal foundations.

But ask any Jewish organizations that offer such programs, what is the percentage of Teens that are NOT from congregations, participate in their programs, and if they honest with you, they would tell you, that hardly any non-affiliated Jewish Teen becomes a part of their wonderful Confronting Anti-Semitism programs for teens.

Yet, we see a growing need into training the Teens, whose parents are not affiliated with any synagogue and consider themselves secular, because they do not practice Judaism on a daily basis. As the number of congregational members tends to decline rapidly every year (in accordance to various news publications), the number of unaffiliated families grows dramatically. Especially, it’s true within the First-generation immigrant Jewish families, that come from Post-Soviet countries, Eastern Europe, and Israel. They have kids - either born in the United States, or brought to the USA in their early ages – growing with some sense of pride of being Jewish, because this is how they’ve been taught in the family, but without any good tools to confront Anti-Semitism, because they haven’t experienced it themselves yet.

Most of the First-generation immigrant parents have been experienced Anti-Semitism through their entire life, until they had immigrated to the United States or Israel, and they have grown a stamina to confront anti-Semitism at school, in the neighborhood, and at their workplaces. Confront - and survive. However, once they came to the country that seemed to be freed from such illness, at least on a state/federal level, they would lose their ability to survive through anti-Semitic issues, and being not as much involved into their kids school life, mostly because of cultural differences, they would not be able to teach their kids the ability to confront and survive. In fact, many of them simply do not believe that their children would face discrimination for the fact that they are Jewish.

But what about American Jewish Families that are no longer want to belong to any congregation? As an opposite to the first-generation immigrants, they simply don’t have any experience at all in meeting Anti-Semitism face-to-face. Their Children won’t hear any stories from them about the way they’ve dealt with acts of anti-Semitism in their teenage years, college years, and overall life. Instead of looking for a program that would help their Teens, and without enough information about the existence of such programs (because, we know that only congregational families have an explicit access to such information), they would grow a generation of Teens that is ashamed of being Jewish, and that wants to “fit in” to the society, making everyone forget about their Jewish Roots, as in the outside World, so is within their families. Historically, such tendency leads to inability to confront anti-Semitism and to keep Jewish Identity through generations.

Jookender Community Initiatives target those families that aren’t affiliated with any congregations, and therefore, don’t have an access to all those valuable programs available elsewhere. We are a grass-roots independent, 501 c(3) nonprofit, building an engaging Community of secular Jewish families who wanted to keep their Jewish Identity and wanted their kids to feel proud of being Jewish – without any religious affiliations. We speak many languages, and have members from at least 10 different countries. We work with Teens that do not hear about the need of confronting anti-Semitism on a constantly basis, and do not read or discuss the appropriate Jewish books that would have some explanations and provide with the tools of defense on their own. Therefore, these Teens are not prepared at all to face it. Jookender is now testing various Jewish Leadership programs and Travel Teen programs where each of them – include quite a piece of the ability to recognize, acknowledge and confront the bias of Anti-Semitism. In April, 2019, during the Spring Break vacation, families with Teens go to explore the Jewish Europe learning Anti-Semitism inside out, the way their parents did when they were the same age.

With the help of the Natan Grant, we hope to create a Teens Safety Hub Harbor, where they will be taught – through a number of workshops, lessons, cohorts, and internships they are eager to attend anyway, how to deal with stereotypes, have a voice, when others are voiceless, become silent, when it’s time to listen, take notes w/o confronting, and feel empowered and take leadership, instead of filling ashamed and helpless. For an unaffiliated community, such as the one created and being constantly built Jookender Community, seamless teaching is the most powerful and welcoming one. When time comes, these Teens become powerful Teen Leaders, able to teach younger teens to confront anti-Semitism. Jookender will collaborate with Club Z Teens (clubzteens.org), Parents of Tzabras (tzabar-parents.org), ADL.org, and local Jewish Youth Organizations to deliver a powerful programming for our Teens, so when the time comes, our Teens may join the other Teens and together – they would build a better World.

We will be happy to discuss each program we will be delivering to our Teen population in details and provide a compete budget in the Full Proposal.