By Rex Popick

This piece originally appeared in The Algemeiner

Antisemitism is rising in America, both in our everyday interactions and online. The anti-Jewish discourse and violent incidents we have witnessed have been horrifying, and I, for my part, refuse to sit on the sidelines.

I am a senior at The Dalton School in New York City, where I lead the Jewish Culture Club. After October 7th, I was determined to prevent the events in Israel and Gaza from stoking tensions at my school. I reached out to my Muslim peers and had meaningful conversations to foster the need for interfaith coexistence.

It worked.

Every participant was able to share something that they learned from the interfaith session, and Dalton has so far been spared the violence and animosity that have characterized too many disagreements about the conflict in New York City and across the country.

My commitment to civil discourse led me to join the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) program and participate in its advocacy summit. Last month, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with 180 high school students from all over the country who are passionate about supporting Israel and combating antisemitism.

During the summit, I attended a panel on Muslim-Jewish dialogue and coexistence that mirrored the dialogue at my high school, which reinforced my conviction that these conversations are the building blocks of peace. Israel isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the Palestinians. Dialogue and coexistence are the only way forward for our two peoples — in the Middle East and around the world.

We also discussed the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The key word here is future. Patience, dialogue, intercommunal respect, empathy, and education are how we can create a positive, peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

I want to elaborate more on one of those tenets: education.

A common denominator of much, though not all, antisemitism is misinformation and ignorance — whether willful or unintentional. For example, many of those who chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” are doing so in support of Palestinian statehood without realizing that they are calling for the elimination of Israel, or echoing a rallying cry of terrorist groups like Hamas. Many of these people can’t name what river or sea they are referring to. But, one study showed that once some protesters learned more about the region and what this chant really meant, they regretted saying it.

We hear from many of those who are taking Hamas’ side in this conflict that they are doing so because they believe they are standing for the “little guy,” when in fact they are signaling their support for an internationally recognized terror organization that wants to destroy the world’s one Jewish state and calls explicitly for the murder of the world’s Jews.

These troubling assertions and attitudes, and so much contemporary antisemitism, are manifestations of ignorance not only about Israel, Hamas, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but fundamentally about Jews and our history, traditions, and beliefs.

There is no silver bullet to rid the world of antisemitism completely, but education can go a long way towards its diminishment.

There is so much that we can do. I want to encourage fellow high schoolers to engage in difficult conversations and to reach out across communities and partisan lines. Yes, it is challenging, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of advocacy.

According to AJC’s recently released State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 36% of young American Jews (between 18 and 29) said they were the personal target of antisemitism last year (compared to 22% over age 30). Standing up for ourselves — including by reaching out to our elected representatives and voicing our concerns — is not just imperative but our right and duty. Every voice matters, and these officials are meant to represent all of us, even young people not eligible to vote.

Reflecting on my experiences, I am reminded of the importance of empathy, understanding, and dialogue in fostering peace. There is so much work ahead, but armed with knowledge, compassion, and patience I am ready to embrace the journey — and I hope you are too.


Rex Popick is a member of American Jewish Committee’s Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) program and a senior at The Dalton School, an independent, co-educational day school (K-12) located in New York City.