In the wake of recent antisemitic events in Los Angeles and across the nation, Upper School students came together to hold space for reflection and education.
Recently in Los Angeles, a white supremacist hate group displayed antisemitic signs over a 405 overpass and raised their arms in Nazi salutes. One sign asserted “Kanye is right about the Jews,” referring to recent remarks by Kanye West, who professed antisemitic conspiracy theories in interviews and on social media. In addition, antisemitic flyers were distributed in parts of the city.
In response, the Crossroads community did what it does best: it came together. Three student groups on campus, the Jewish Student Union (JSU), the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Black and Jewish Alliance (BJA), took collective action. The co-presidents wrote a joint statement in solidarity against antisemitism. The statement was included in a letter
sent by Interim Head of School Mariama Richards to the Crossroads community.
"First and foremost, we wanted to show that the alliance still stands at our school and that both [Black and Jewish] communities are committed to being in allyship of each other,” said JSU Co-President Eli Horwitch, a senior. “When one member of a certain community attacks another community, it’s important for us to not go lower, but to show even more allyship and to move forward in that way.”
When reflecting on why the three groups made their statement together, senior Cole Hoegl, who serves as co-president of the BSU, explained, “It was important for the Black Student Union to show that the Black students at Crossroads and the Black community in general do not support antisemitic sentiment. We are working together against any sort of inequalities and inequities in our society.”
In another act of unity, the co-presidents facilitated two Council-style discussions that gave students a safe space to process recent antisemitic events. Black and Jewish Alliance Co-Presidents Christine Kivi and Ella Grossman, both in 11th grade, moderated the events with a series of questions, including: What does it mean to be Jewish at Crossroads? What does it mean to be Black at Crossroads? What type of support do you need at this time?
A consistent theme throughout the talks was the importance of listening and learning about other people’s experiences and identities. “As a whole, we need to have a better understanding of each other’s cultures so that we can eliminate some of the ignorance,” said Christine. “I started going to the Jewish Faith and Culture Club and it was really eye-opening for me to learn about the Jewish faith and culture. If I hadn’t gone, I don’t think I would be where I am today and know the things that I do.” Ella added, “Each conversation we have is a small step to something greater. We just need to continue the conversations and try to implement what we’ve learned from each other to create positive lasting change.”
Eli appreciated the support of the administration. “Mariama was so willing to listen to us and to incorporate our statement into hers,” he shared. “And we saw [Head of Upper School] Anthony Locke and [Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion] Stephanie Carrillo at our discussion. I was just really grateful that we have a community of students, faculty and administrators that really want to support all communities … They were truly amplifying our student voices.”
One of the biggest takeaways for the co-presidents was seeing how much their collective action resonated beyond the Crossroads community. “It was funny—I got a call from my aunt, and she goes, ‘Did you help write an email that Crossroads sent out about antisemitism?’” said senior and JSU Co-President Jonah Mannheim.
It turns out that an acquaintance of his aunt, someone unconnected to Crossroads, had been forwarded the email and was deeply moved by it. “To know that a [wider] Los Angeles community of Jews saw and appreciated the statement that we had made—that was a cool feeling.”
Students will have another opportunity to learn about antisemitism and how to combat it during an assembly on Thursday, Nov. 17 with Dr. Saba Soomekh, the director of training and education at American Jewish Committee. That evening, Dr. Soomekh will be the first speaker in the 2022-23 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series. Her talk will be offered virtually and is free and open to the public. For more information, click here
. To register for the event, click here