Facing Hatred: My first Confrontation with Antisemitism

June 16, 2023
Kylee Garfield

Redondo Beach, California, United States

Class of 2026

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Screaming, crying, fear. That is what I remember from my first experience of Antisemitism. It was just another day in my homeschooled kids' learning center, where I had a class called “culture club”. The rooms in the center were small, and cube-like, with a big kitchen in between the halls. Kids of all ages roamed around, most of them joyful, living their childhood to the fullest. In this class, we learned all about different cultures. The aroma of food and spirit around the schooling center would brighten my Wednesday mornings. This class gave me a creative outlet I never knew I needed.

Towards the middle of the class, we’d begin to bake or cook something from a culture, as food embodies cultures in ways that words cannot. One day, two people came in to talk about a country called Morocco, a place in the middle east not far from Israel. As a sixth grader, I didn't understand that some people, even to this day, believe Israel shouldn’t be a country. I knew why the holocaust happened, and the many other prejudices against Jews over the centuries that had occurred, but I thought we had been long over that.

Yet, here in this class, my small comment on how Arabic looked similar to Hebrew caused the mother who was teaching to scream in my face. “I don't believe Israel should be a country”, she said, in front of the class. I looked at her as if I just saw a ghost. I trembled. “Did I hear that right?”, I thought. I felt the weight of all the pain of the Jewish people before me, I was one of them, I finally understood. Later, I asked her what she meant, explaining I was Jewish and Hebrew is just a part of my culture. I thought she would understand, after all, this is a culture club class. That was not the case. Out of nowhere, she decided to give me the accusation that I killed Jesus. Running into the bathroom, I sobbed, wondering what could convince a parent, who had a child my own age, that I killed Jesus. A man who had been dead for thousands of years, was killed by me, a 12-year-old? In this moment, in a way I grew up, faster than I believed I should have. The world is so scary, and that shouldn't be something that a 6th grader is aware of, something a 12-year-old knows from experience. Perplexed by the immaturity of this parent, and fear for what was out there, I didn't know what to do with myself.

From this experience, I learned that many adults are fed information, and blindly believe it. After a stupendous amount of personal growth, I've become more connected to my Judaism, further compelling me to fight back against people's harsh remarks. Judaism is a part of my identity, a part of who we are. The phrase “together as one, forever united”, comes to mind. BBYO perfectly embellishes the best parts of Judaism, making the youth of our minority closer than ever. Due to this, we have to fight back. Antisemitism shouldn't be something anyone experiences, or any prejudice for that matter. However, antisemitism is all around us, and despite many efforts, it still exists to this day. I don't know if you can change an adult's mind, but, as teenagers, we have the chance to teach kids in other cultures what Judaism is all about. We can ensure the upcoming leaders in our society are informed and aware that we aren't a harm to the world, we are just trying to live peacefully in it.

Submitted with undying love, Kylee Garfield, a forever BBG

Kylee Garfield is a BBG living in Redondo Beach and has never been stung by a bee.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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