Shine A Light on Antisemitism Civic Courage Award
The 2023 Shine A Light on Antisemitism Civic Courage Award honors students and educators who exemplify what it means to be upstanding citizens when it comes to taking action against antisemitism and countering hate in their communities. Award winners will have made a thoughtful and lasting impact on their communities, regardless of size.
These awards recognize students who exemplify what it means to be upstanding citizens when it comes to taking action against antisemitism and countering hate in their school communities through expanded allyship and compassion. Award winners have made a thoughtful and lasting impact on their communities, regardless of size.
High School Student Winners
Maya was affected by antisemitism when she attempted to build a bridge between her local Jewish youth group and another local youth group. Her attempts were shut down by the neighboring youth group, who accused her and the other Jewish students of racism based on their affiliation with Judaism. Maya is also a leader of a Jewish club at her high school which has encountered a lack of support for the Jewish students at her school. Unlike other schools in the district, her school did not issue a statement condemning the Hamas attacks or condemning antisemitism following the events of October 7th. Maya is actively involved as a volunteer for the Jewish community; she participates in outreach and educational activities about antisemitism, the Holocaust, and, most recently, the October 7th terror attacks and the Israel-Hamas war. She designed a website for her community’s Holocaust Education Center, created a Jewish club at her high school, and as part of this club, brought Klezmer musicians and an Israeli film director to her school. She is also one of the co-founders and leaders of the local BBYO Jewish student youth group, which has organized a number of community events.
Emmett goes to a school where a swastika was graffitied in a boy’s bathroom. Prior to the incident Emmett always wore his Magen David proudly over his shirt. After the incident, Emmett found himself hiding his Jewish identity by tucking his Jewish star between his shirt and chest. A few weeks later, posters with Hitler’s face and “Finish the Job” and “We can do it again” were posted on the walls of his high school and one of his closest friends said “Hitler was smart.” These acts of hate were a call to action for Emmett. He once again began to wear his Jewish publicly. When he learned there wasn’t a Holocaust museum in his area, he founded an antisemitism awareness project called “The ASAP Museum”, a pop-up exhibit designed to increase awareness and understanding of modern-day hate and antisemitism through the lens of the propaganda, rhetoric, and historical events that led to the Holocaust. To make the ASAP Museum content easily accessible to other communities across the country, the exhibit materials were designed on posters that are easy to ship and reproduce. At his request, Emmett was a featured speaker at his temple’s gathering of solidarity on October 9, and community members remarked that his words compelled them to make a change.
Teddy was deeply affected by the alarming rise of antisemitism across the country and around the world. ADL reported that Teddy’s home state ranked sixth in the nation for recorded incidents of antisemitic assaults, harassment and vandalism. One of the scariest antisemitic attacks occurred in broad daylight in a major city when a Rabbi was stabbed on the steps of a Jewish day school. Antisemitism spurred Teddy to action. He is the leader of the Teen Antisemitism Task Force in his community. He also founded the Israel Club at his high school and facilitated discussions between students that address the impact the October 7th attacks had on Jewish teens. Teddy hopes the impact of his work will plant the seed for change in generations to come. He believes that living proudly as a Jew and sharing Jewish stories with others will encourage more people to become educated about the hatred faced by the Jewish people.
College Student Winners
Maya is a college student in a state where many people haven’t had any personal interaction with Jewish individuals. Jewish students at her school were subjected to verbal and physical antisemitic acts by students and teachers. Maya continually takes a stand for Jewish rights, culture, and Holocaust education. She has testified to her state’s Senate Education Committee in support of Holocaust education and for inclusion of Jewish culture in a proposed ethnic studies standards bill where it had been eliminated from original text. She was a part of a small group of students who lobbied the local town council to vote against a resolution supporting BDS. She also stood up to her college’s leadership council, resulting in an investigation by the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office. In addition to her political accomplishments surrounding antisemitism, Maya brought Elisha Wiesel, son of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, to speak at her college.
Jillian is a college student who experienced antisemitism directed at her personally. Jillian and her community have faced rocks being thrown at them, increased police presence at Jewish spaces, and a vile antisemitic banner being hung from the student union building. While this has taken a toll, it has also pushed Jillian to use her voice and passion to combat antisemitism on campus. In March 2022, her student council was presented with a motion on BDS. As President of her school’s Israel on Campus group, Jillian attended the debates and witnessed the spreading of misinformation across campus. She spoke at the council meeting where the motion ultimately passed. Throughout her time as President, she hosted multi-faith events and publicly spoke out against rising antisemitism in the wake of the October 7th Hamas attacks. Additionally, she participated in a trip bringing together a diverse and multi-faith group of students to travel to Israel and learn a nuanced view of the State of Israel and Palestinian Authority prior to October 2023.
These awards recognize individuals who have demonstrated a significant commitment to combating antisemitism and upholding diversity beyond the scope of their professional responsibilities. We recognise these individuals who actively work to build a more inclusive, engaged, and equitable community. Awardees have made thoughtful and lasting impacts on their communities, regardless of size.
Elementary School Educator Winner
Ellie is an elementary school teacher who responded to an increase in antisemitism in her community by purchasing a building to create a Jewish school in a non-Jewish neighborhood. Her efforts were met with hostility from within her community, and she had to file police reports and involve the Attorney General. Eventually the situation escalated to the point where the FBI had to intervene. After successfully resolving this issue, Ellie reached out to leaders at both community and state levels to address the rampant antisemitism. In addition, she partnered with the heads of other schools to educate them about the Jewish community and culture.
Middle School Educator Winners
Anne is a middle school history teacher who made it her mission to stand up for antisemitism and advocate for the Jewish community. She developed, received administrative approval for, and implemented a 9-week curriculum that thoroughly defines and explains antisemitism. As a part of Anne’s curriculum, students learn about the Holocaust and conduct research about the lives of Holocaust victims and survivors to reframe their place in historical memory as more than victims. The students’ research is then displayed in the hallways of the school.
Valerie is the middle school Dean of Academics and an English and Theater Arts teacher at a Christian school. She is passionate about teaching awareness of persecution and exclusion in all its forms. Her focus is the Holocaust, but she has taught genocide related to other contemporary cultures as well. She teaches the historical contexts of genocide through literature, relating it to the Holocaust throughout the school year. She has an extensive library of Holocaust literature that she integrates into middle school English classes. Additionally, she has led annual student tours to Europe which center around teaching about persecution and the Holocaust. Her students tour various concentration camps, including Dachau and Auschwitz, and also learn about Jewish life and persecution in Polish and Hungarian ghettos.
High School Educator Winners
Catlyn is an educator in a school roughly 15 minutes away from the Tree of Life Synagogue. She manages her area’s LIGHT (Leadership through Innovation in Genocide and Human Rights Teaching) Center and has volunteered to teach her district’s elective Holocaust course for five years. Catlyn was recognized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) as “Righteous Among the Neighbors” and has organized yearly field trips to the USHMM and Eradicate Hate Summit in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she brought antisemitism to the attention of the school’s existing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. Through her work, her high school is one of two high schools out of 500 in her state where PBIS fulfilled expectations. Catlyn gives up her lunch and preparatory class periods on a daily basis to keep the LIGHT Center open during all student lunch periods, which means students can spend time on humanitarian advocacy every single day. She also measures her impact, proving that nearly 20% of students in the high school have voluntarily spent time in her room on programs aimed at countering identity-based hate, especially antisemitism. She has directly reached thousands of students, families, and community members through her programs. Her classroom serves as the school’s LIGHT Center. It was the first of its kind in the nation, dedicated exclusively to Holocaust, genocide, and human rights education and advocacy, bringing together likely and unlikely allies in the fight against antisemitism and all forms of identity-based hate.
Michele is an educator who has made it a personal and professional goal to teach about and discuss marginalized groups. Michele was devastated and angered by the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and since then, has committed to combating hate and antisemitism through her curriculum. Michele worked in the school library to create stations that lead students through the history of antisemitism to remembering the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre. Michele is an advocate and ambassador with the LIGHT Education Initiative, which connects K-12 students to community members of all ages through themes within human rights and genocide, like being an upstander, making responsible choices, social and environmental justice, kindness and love, and volunteerism and humility. Michele partners with student-led organizations to discuss inclusion, acceptance, and tolerance and organized like-minded teachers within her school community discuss their experiences and expand their understanding of what hate and prejudice can do to a school environment. She traveled to Poland with Classrooms Without Borders to gain a more complete knowledge of the Holocaust, and subsequently altered her curriculum to fit her new understanding. She also traveled to the South to expand her knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement. By connecting these experiences in her classroom, she provides an opportunity for students to see connections and trends in history and hate.
University Educator Winners
Jason is the Senior Vice President of University Life at his university. In October 2020, his university settled a complaint with the Department of Education which alleged that the university did not do enough to address a hostile environment for the Jewish community on campus. To address antisemitism in his school community, Jason composed a blueprint for preventing and addressing antisemitism, which has since become a resource for other universities across the country. Jason also oversees his university’s Working Group to Promote Understanding which is tasked with addressing concerns around antisemitism. He helped to redesign the J-Zone training for faculty, staff, and students to learn about the Jewish experience and antisemitism. Jason also led the effort to update the university’s policies on religious accommodation and designed more transparent communications processes so students would know about policies related to campus climate and inclusion. In addition to his professional responsibilities, Jason dedicated time to learning more about the topic of antisemitism. He participated in a yearlong professional development program on Jewish identity and antisemitism as well as a Black/Jewish leadership program. As part of these programs, Jason visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, participated in a civil rights trip to the South, and traveled to Israel.
Darin is the Chief Diversity Officer at his university’s school of medicine where over the last few years, the climate has become increasingly unwelcoming towards Jewish students. Dormitories and other public spaces were vandalized with antisemitic graffiti and the leader of a law school training session on diversity dismissed the safety concerns of the Jewish community. Darin has addressed this rising antisemitism since 2021, when he set up a meeting with Jewish faculty members and listened to their concerns, advising them to “never stop speaking up.” He was also instrumental in providing multiple opportunities to educate the DEI team about antisemitism, and was essential in the planning and execution of a large-scale, day-long summit at the university featuring Dara Horn. Through grant funding as well as personal supplemental funds, Darin enrolled in a year-long professional development program to learn about the Jewish experience and antisemitism.