Amid Rise in Hate Crimes Targeting Their Communities, Asian and Jewish Teens Come Together for ‘Empathy Walk’

Participants in the Empathy Walk pose for a picture.

June 24, 2021

The past year saw a sharp spike in hate crimes targeting Asians and Jews in the United States.

Incidents of physical assault, vandalism, hate speech, and online harassment skyrocketed, with bigots motivated by the Covid-19 pandemic and Israel-Gaza violence.

In light of this situation, the Sid Jacobson JCC’s Center for Community Engagement in East Hills, New York, recently organized an initiative to forge unity between the Asian and Jewish communities.

Teens from local high schools were invited to take part in an “Empathy Walk.”

At the event, Asian and Jewish students were paired together to learn about each other’s beliefs, cultures, and experiences.

The participants completed a scavenger hunt to locate hidden shoeboxes along the route of the walk. Each box contained one shoe and several props to discuss.

Afterward, leaders revealed the other shoe and told a story related to issues of antisemitism, Asian hate, race, gender and LGBTQ bias, and mental illness.

“The goal of our Empathy Walk is to create a safe space for young leaders to listen and learn from one another,” Susan Berman, director of the Sid Jacobson JCC’s Center for Community Engagement, told The Island Now. “We are asking them to take a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes.”