Jewish High Schoolers Fight Anti-Semitic Bigotry by Teaching Peers About Their Faith

Shabbat candles.

February 7, 2021

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise across the US in recent years, Jewish high school students in the Buffalo area of upstate New York are taking part in an initiative to share with their non-Jewish peers their personal experiences of facing bigotry, to help foster interfaith understanding.

The “Student to Student” program was first developed by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of St. Louis a decade ago and has since been replicated in numerous locations elsewhere, including Buffalo this past year.

“Every faith tradition, at least from my perspective, is about talking about love and tolerance,” Michael Steklof — director of Jewish Experience at the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning — told The Buffalo News. “The more we’re able to tell people about Judaism, the more we’re able to promote the sense of love and tolerance.”

“I think our hope is through presentations like this we can give people familiarity with the Jewish people to cut down on anti-Semitism,” he added.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures, the presentations are being held online. The Jewish students introduce themselves and describe their religious backgrounds. They also explain Jewish customs, traditions and holidays, among other things.

“I learned a lot,” one of the program’s participants, Ella Pascucci, president of the youth chapter of Hamburg Coalition for Equity and Inclusion, was quoted as saying. “I’m hoping we will have the chance to continue to work together and do more presentations like this.”

“I think it’s very important to educate yourself about people who are differ than you,” said Ava Rosenthal, a sophomore at Williamsville East High School and one of the program’s presenters.

Read more at The Buffalo News here.