This article was sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.
Until a few years ago, it seemed that the scourge of antisemitism might gradually be fading into history, at least in America.
However, for many young American Jews, including myself, the last few years have been a rude awakening. A synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked in 2018 in what was America’s deadliest-ever antisemitic incident, Jews have been assaulted in the street for wearing kippahs and Star of David necklaces, and practically almost all of us have witnessed or experienced antisemitic vitriol online.
A 2020 report issued by the American Jewish Committee on the State of Antisemitism in America found that almost half (46%) of those who encountered an antisemitic remarks online and reported it to a social media platform said no action was taken to address the incident. The survey also found that 62% of Americans believe antisemitism is a problem in the U.S. today and that 43% believe the problem has worsened over the last five years.
In May, the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas brought a fresh wave of antisemitism to our shores.
Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political affiliation, American Jews continue to be threatened, vilified and harassed, both publicly and anonymously. So, how do we prevent this reawakened tide of anti-Jewish hatred from flowing into every corner of our society? What can we do to address this crisis?
There’s no shortage of Jewish institutions and organizations trying to tackle the problem. Now, one of America’s oldest and most esteemed Jewish organizations is turning to young American Jews to try to come up with novel ways to address history’s oldest hatred.
It’s called Disrupt Antisemitism, and it’s a campaign by the American Jewish Committee’s Alexander Young Leadership Department to solicit ideas from young people for new ways of thinking about, well, disrupting antisemitism.
Think of it as an incubator inspired by Silicon Valley’s approach to entrepreneurship. But instead of investors looking for the next big start-up, AJC is seeking to provide seed funding to an idea, project, or organization created by and for young leaders that will make a demonstrable impact in fighting antisemitism.
Winning ideas will get up to $10,000 in seed funding, plus access to experts and leaders in the fields of advocacy, media, finance, and technology.
“We are looking for projects that are naturally appealing to young people,” said Allie Lipner Rosenblum, AJC’s director for development operations. “Proposals must be dynamic, have a digital component with the potential of being scalable, and bring in allies. Social media is definitely one thing, but also ideas that encourage bridge-building, in terms of having tough conversations with other minority groups or fostering conversations on campuses.”
Lipner Rosenblum is one of three young AJC leaders who envisioned and are spearheading this breakthrough initiative. The others are Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman, director of AJC’s Alexander Young Leadership Department, and Belle Yoeli, AJC’s chief communications and innovation officer.
The competition runs through Sept. 27. AJC is looking to support three to five different proposals that combat the rising tide of antisemitism in America or the world. Proposals should address antisemitism thoughtfully and creatively, particularly as it influences and impacts the Jewish community as a whole.
“We at AJC recognize we don’t have a monopoly of wisdom when it comes to combating antisemitism,” said Wyschogrod Fredman. “This is a time for new ideas. There is a huge need among young Jews to do something about antisemitism. We want to amplify the ideas that young American Jews have with fresh thinking to combat millennia-old hatred.”
The work is already happening. Young Jewish people are turning their social media feeds into collective spaces to combat antisemitism, debunk stereotypes and create a new form of civic engagement that reinforces their Jewishness. I believe a new generation of Jews is willing to break boundaries and go further than previous generations in calling out and standing up to Jew-hatred.
The Disrupt Antisemitism initiative can harness the high-paced innovative mentality of millennials and Gen Z while tapping the traditional experience of a long-established institution like the American Jewish Committee, which was founded in 1906 in the shadow of pogroms against Jews in Russia. Back then, the organization’s official raison d’etre was to “prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution.”
That mission remains unchanged today. Sadly, it’s still necessary.
Nobody has the perfect solution to the problem, but we all need to pitch in together to fight antisemitism: old and young, people who are Jews and people who are not, and Americans of all political stripes, races, gender identity and sexual orientation. It affects all of us.
From high schoolers to newly graduated college students and young professionals, I’ve seen how a new surge of Jewish voices from every walk of life are leading the way in challenging and changing conversations about inclusion, freedom of expression and Jewish identity.
Historically, America has played a leading role in fighting hate. As Jews, we have a long history of standing up to oppression and combating bigotry, discrimination and intolerance in our communities and beyond.
Now, with antisemitism on the rise, young people are uniquely positioned to help challenge hatred. We are hungry for leadership and empowerment to advance our core Jewish values, create new dialogue and build connections across communities.
The work is urgent. We must be willing to push forward change and look beyond the old ways of doing things to achieve our shared vision. In times of shared concern, I am confident that we can turn to one another with a clear sense of purpose to find innovative solutions and disruptive approaches to oppose and condemn antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes. Are you with me?
Apply here to be part of AJC’s incubator for young Jews combating antisemitism.