Jewish Student Union organizes day to spread awareness of antisemitism

The Day of Jewish Identity and Antisemitism Awareness served as an opportunity for Jewish students to share their frustrations about the swastikas found in many classrooms.


The Day of Jewish Identity and Antisemitism Awareness served as an opportunity for Jewish students to share their frustrations about the swastikas found in many classrooms.

In response to the many swastikas found this past year, the Jewish Student Union (JSU) organized a Day of Jewish Identity and Antisemitism Awareness on May 19.

A-block featured student-speakers who shared experiences being Jewish. Afterwards, during B-block, Holocaust survivor Tania Lefman shared her story of growing up and surviving the Holocaust. JSU president and junior Naomi Sellam said this day was originally planned three years ago after a JSU poster advertising the club was defaced with a swastika.

The JSU’s plans were originally delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sellam said the school needed to have this day due to the rise of the antisemitic incidents at the high school and around the world.

“I wasn’t planning on organizing [the Day of Jewish Identity and Antisemitism Awareness] at the beginning of the year, but because of all the swastikas that the school found on the walls and with all the antisemitism that had been rising across the country, I thought it was really necessary. As we kept finding swastikas around the school it became more clear to me how important this day was going to be,” Sellam said.

JSU club member and junior Jane Robinson said the club wanted to allow students to share their frustrations with the administration and school community.

“We incorporated a lot of [attention] towards the administration. In some speeches, students talked about their own personal frustrations or just ideas of shortcomings with the administration,” Robinson said.

Vice president and sophomore Gabe Spagat said the club’s primary goal when organizing this day was to educate people on the prevalence of antisemitism.

“We want to bring awareness that antisemitism does exist. Brookline is unlike most places since there’s a very prominent Jewish population compared to many other places in America and in the world. I think the club’s biggest aim was to teach people about what antisemitism is and show them that it exists more than they would know,” Spagat said.

Sellam spoke with many high school teachers and much of the administration to make the day possible. Spagat said he found out about the plans to make this day later on and said his initial reaction was very positive.

“I was really happy when it was approved since I thought that it was something that the school needed to have, especially going back to how many swastikas that were found. This issue kind of felt pushed aside, and it felt like people weren’t caring about it that much,” Spagat said.

Sellam said the club wanted to have both student speakers and a Holocaust survivor.

“The club thought it was really important to have student speeches so that they can share their stories to connect, feel and relate to others. The club also thought that having Holocaust survivors speak was really important. We also thought that the celebration part was really important, too, because to show that we’re not just our trauma, there’s a lot to be proud of for being a Jew,” Sellam said.

Robinson said her favorite part of the process was seeing how the day finally happened.

“I think my favorite part is really seeing how we have come together to make it happen. The best part is seeing it all come together and seeing our hard work pay off,” Robinson said.

Sellam said she still wants people to learn more about Judaism and what antisemitism is.

“I personally want people to walk away with a better understanding of what it means to be Jewish, in all aspects such as antisemitism, Jewish pride, culture, etc.,” Sellam said. “The club doesn’t hope to solve antisemitism on this day, but hopes to solve any prejudice among students if people are willing to be open.”