The community discussion, which was free and open to the public, was the School’s first Equity & Justice speaker series event of the year.
On November 17, Crossroads’ Equity & Justice Institute welcomed Dr. Saba Soomekh for a virtual talk on antisemitism as part of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Equity & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series. The series helps stimulate dialogue among students, educators and community leaders committed to tackling the problems of racism, poverty, war, environmental degradation, educational inequities, religious persecution, genocide and other forms of injustice. Every year, the speaker series features a guest or film screening that specifically enhances the School’s existing curriculum on the Holocaust and other forms of genocide and/or religious oppression.
Dr. Saba Soomekh serves as the director of training and education at American Jewish Committee. Her lecture, which was free and open to the public, was hosted by Interim Head of School Mariama Richards. Dr. Soomekh discussed the history of antisemitism in America as well as the tropes and stereotypes that have plagued the Jewish community for the past 2,000 years. She addressed the increase in antisemitism over recent years, citing an FBI statistic from 2020, that Jews are two percent of America’s population, yet receive over 60 percent of religious-based hate crimes.
Following her presentation, listeners were asked to submit questions for a Q&A discussion. One attendee asked, “What can high schools like Crossroads do to educate students on being prepared for the level of antisemitism on college campuses?”
In response, Dr. Soomekh emphasized that while antisemitism exists everywhere, including college campuses, looking for Jewish organizations and reaching out to other marginalized groups on campus can strengthen community bonds. “Look at the Hillel Jewish organizations there. Look at how Jewish life is taking place,” said Dr. Soomekh. “Learn how to be allies and work together.”
Dr. Soomekh also spoke with Upper School students during community time on Thursday morning and answered questions posed by Jewish Student Union seniors and co-presidents Eli Horwitch and Jonah Mannheim. After the assembly, students reflected on what they’d learned and the impact of antisemitism on the greater Los Angeles community.
“I thought what she said was really interesting when it came to the antisemitic statistics because I don’t feel like a lot of people realize how prevalent an issue it is,” said Helena Klein, a senior. “Especially in Los Angeles, a lot of people don’t think it really happens in more liberal states such as California, but it’s not true.”
When discussing how to combat antisemitism, Dr. Soomekh emphasized the importance of allyship. Validating Jewish individuals’ experiences while providing education and affinity through diversity, equity and inclusion programming is one way in which students and community members can continue to work against hatred. “Allyship is so, so important,” said Dr. Soomekh. “The only way we can fight antisemitism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia is through allyship.”
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. A recording of Dr. Soomekh’s evening presentation will be posted here
sometime after Thanksgiving.