Last month was the one year anniversary of a vicious attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Incidents of antisemitic violence are increasing—including one attempt this week which was thwarted at a synagogue in Pueblo, CO. The recently released AJC Study of Antisemitism in America (https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismSurvey2019) quantifies current high levels of antisemitism as perceived by American Jews. Specifically, this survey revealed 88% of Jews who think antisemitism is a problem; 84% think it has gotten worse in the past five years.
I’d like to bring to the attention of the St. Louis Post Dispach a program from the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council. It’s called Student-To-Student. STS is a program that uniquely anticipates antisemitism at the high school level. It does this with Jewish high school students presenting information on Judaism to a classroom of non-Jewish high school students. The timing of this peer to peer program prior to the students’ entry into college and formation of stereotypes makes it especially significant.
Key elements of STS are:
A small group of Jewish high school students, typically 3-4 teens, representing reform, conservative, and orthodox denominations, present for about an hour to a classroom of other students from predominately non-Jewish high schools. The Jewish students talk about their faith—the different denominations, a day in a Jew’s life, the holidays, dietary laws, the Holocaust, Israel. Last year, 117 Jewish students made presentations to 3,000-3,500 non-Jewish students in over 30 St. Louis public and parochial schools. Begun in 1992, STS has been expanded this past year to four new cities—Chicago, Washington DC, Indianapolis, and Des Moines. STS is being further expanded this coming year to four additional cities—Dallas, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Buffalo. For more information, here’s a link to STS from the JCRC website: https://jcrcstl.org/what-we-do/teen-engagement/student-to-student.html/.
We at the St. Louis JCRC are very proud of Student-To-Student. Its effectiveness has been borne out by recent survey research. From this research we learned:
A whopping 100% of the students found the STS presentations informative 95% found them extremely or very informative Likewise, a full 100% learned about Judaism from STS 93% learned quite a lot 92% of students liked the presentation 73% liked it a lot From interviews conducted three to six months following their STS exposure, the vast majority of students (96%) agreed STS made longer-term impacts beyond their short-term changes in knowledge or attitudes. In the follow-up interviews, most students had taken specific positive behavioral actions—84% were motivated by Student to Student to share what they learned or take another step to learn more about Judaism and the Jewish people. 61% shared what they learned with their families, friends, or others. 27% interrupted an anti-Semitic joke or other remark. 18% read a book or saw a film about Judaism or Israel/the Middle East. The teachers loved STS too! 100% agreed the presentations effectively engaged their students, 83% strongly agreed 100% agreed the presentations broke down stereotypes, 83% strongly agreed 100% agreed the presentations helped counter antisemitism, 78% strongly agreed
Would the St. Louis Post Dispatch like to run a report on Student To Student? Publicizing STS in the Post Dispatch would greatly aid our efforts to accurately present the Jewish faith and counter antisemitic stereotypes. I have a couple of ideas of how this might be done. Minimally, I suggest an interview with Fawn Chapel, our very capable STS program director, and 1-2 of the STS teen presenters. Ideally, you may wish to visit a STS presentation at a local school. Alternatively, you could view the video of a past session which is included in the attached JCRC link.
I’m a member of the board of St. Louis JCRC. I’m happy to discuss this. Please let me know what you think.
Thank you very much. I look forward to hearing from you.
Paul Kravitz 314-749-8943