A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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What these Clayton students did and are doing to fight antisemitism


As reports of antisemitic incidents rise, including at many high schools around the country, a group of Jewish students at Clayton High School decided to organize an event to help their fellow teens stand up to antisemitism.

“As a result of the current war, we noticed that antisemitism was on the rise,” said Molly Siwak, a junior at Clayton and one of the organizers of the event. “We also noticed that our Jewish peers didn’t know how to respond to antisemitism or questions about the war. Because of this, we organized the event in hopes of educating our peers about how to notice antisemitism as well as how to respond and combat it.”

The teens reached out to Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham of Congregation B’nai Amoona and Liessa Alperin, the synagogue’s director of congregational life and engagement.

“The group wanted to learn more about Israel and how to confront the heightened antisemitism they were dealing with at Clayton High School,” said Rabbi Abraham. “We were ready to act quickly to prepare a lesson that would resonate for these teens.”

Together, they discussed the students’ goals and put together plans for a presentation designed specifically for them.

“We wanted to create a safe space for Jewish teens in the district to come together and discuss our shared experiences, to learn as a group about how to stand up to antisemitism,” said Noah Lerman, another student organizer.

The event was held earlier this month at Clayton High School, with around 25 students in attendance.

“I took about 30 minutes to give a crash course in the history of Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham. “It’s important to remind everyone that our history begins with Abraham in the Torah, and then everything that has happened over the last 3,000 years leading up to the creation of the State of Israel, and then what has happened in Israel since 1948. After this, we took about an hour to discuss what they were hearing at school so we could give them the tools on how to respond. It’s important to use facts and continue to ask someone on the other side where they are getting their information from.”

Student takeaways

After the program, some of the students told the Jewish Light about the experience.

“I can confidently say that my expectations were exceeded. I am feeling much more prepared to stand up to all kinds of hate,” said Lerman.

“I feel way more prepared for future discussions after hearing what Rabbi Abraham and Liessa Alperin had to say,” said Siwak. “In addition, I think my peers feel way more comfortable about the topic as well.”

“I thought Rabbi Abraham’s presentation resonated with me and other students,” said Micah Lotsoff. “I was surprised by how many students, including many I didn’t even know were Jewish, came to find out more about antisemitism.”

Overall, the students said they felt their school’s Jewish community was strong and would stand together.

“This event affirmed my belief that what is happening to the Jewish community is a shared experience and that everyone could use some help handling it,” said Lerman.

More opportunities to learn

B’nai Amoona is also participating in another effort to educate all high school students. “Israel & Antisemitism: Past.Present.Future” is a crash course on Israel and antisemitism. Participants will develop an understanding of Israel’s history and Zionism.

While the first class began on Monday, Feb. 26, students are still encouraged to sign up for the remaining classes, which will take place over the next six Monday evenings.

Israel & Antisemitism: Past.Present.Future

When: Monday evenings, Feb 26 – April 15, 2024, 6:45 p.m. (dinner) 7:00 to 8:30 (class)
Where: B’nai Amoona,  324 S Mason Rd, 63141
Sign Up: Click here, or scan the QR code below


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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.