Why people of all ages should seek to understand different communities


Bella Soyfer, Sophomore, Ladue Horton Watkins High School

When given the opportunity to expose themselves to cultures outside their own, some people may be uninterested, questioning why they should care. The simple answer is this: learning about other cultures helps to build an understanding of people around you. If more people strive to foster empathy for those different from them, humanity could reduce the number of hateful feelings and actions in the world. 

Regardless of age, people from elementary school to adulthood should invest time into exploring outside of what they may have been taught or absorbed from their environment. Today, with the strong influence of the internet on our lives, it is easy to mistake one person’s opinion as fact, even if it is based on false information. 

As younger people are still maturing, their own unique worldview is still developing, and it is easy to be influenced by those around them, including peers and parents. As a young adult myself, I have witnessed people my age make hateful comments without truly comprehending the consequences, merely because they heard it from their favorite celebrity or an influential adult in their lives. This is disheartening because many of these individuals have never actually interacted with someone from the community they are targeting, and it shows that they are unwilling to put effort towards learning about and accepting others.

 Currently, rates of antisemitism are extremely high. Statistics from Jewish Community Partners, a Memphis-based organization committed to developing Jewish communities around the world and fighting antisemitism, report that while Jewish people make up only 2% of the U.S. population, 57.5% of all religiously motivated hate crimes in 2020 were aimed at Jewish individuals. 

This statistic not only highlights the staggering rates of antisemitism, but it also expresses the normalization of discrimination towards Jewish people. Ultimately, this creates an environment where individuals feel unsafe expressing their Judaism outside their own homes. Jewish individuals have also come to expect discrimination and backlash for discussing Jewish issues and even participating in Jewish events. In order to promote understanding, encourage acceptance and make the world a safer place for the Jewish community, we must address the issues contributing to hateful behaviors. 

A potential solution to combat this problem is for public schools to incorporate more opportunities for students to learn about various cultures and religions as well as their history. This initiative could help young people become more open-minded and prevent religiously motivated bullying within schools. Some programs already exist, such as clubs like Jewish Student Union, which aims to provide a supportive community for Jewish children and educate non-Jewish individuals about Judaism as well as Student to Student, a teen-led peer program that goes into schools where there are few, or no Jewish students, and teaches them about Judaism. 

In addition, some schools organize passport nights, where people representing various countries present information, performances and food from their cultures, which allows students to engage with diverse perspectives. 

While these programs represent a positive start to promoting understanding among young people, significant changes are still necessary to truly have a more inclusive society. By embracing diversity and seeking out opportunities to engage with other cultures and communities, we can help build a world where acceptance and unity flourish.