Clayton third grader sparks ripple effect against antisemitism after ‘blue square’ presentation


Clayton 3rd grader Sasha Growe.

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

On March 27, Season 23 of “The Voice” officially kicked off its “battle rounds” shows,  when each celebrity coach begins to whittle down their teams. But what many watching also saw was the presence of a small blue square on their TV screen. At the first commercial break, host Carson Daly explained what the blue square meant.

“The blue square you saw while watching ‘The Voice’ means that the show is participating in a national campaign called Stand Up to Jewish Hate, which was founded by Robert Kraft, an American businessman who is the CEO and chairman of the Kraft Group and owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots,” said Daly. “The purpose of utilizing the blue square emoji, which is built into every smartphone keyboard, is to mobilize Americans of all ages to stand up against antisemitism.”

One third-grade teacher in the Clayton School District got the message.

“I happened to be watching ‘The Voice’ when they aired a PSA for the blue square campaign,” said Crystal Chodes-Squibb, a teacher at Meramec Elementary School. “I immediately thought of my student Sasha and did just a bit more research that night. That’s when I learned about”

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

The student Chodes-Squibb thought of is Sasha Growe, 9, who from the first week of third grade had expressed her love of Jewish culture.

“When we started learning how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in different languages, Sasha taught the class how to say it in Hebrew. She wrote about experiences at a Jewish summer camp and shared about Jewish holidays and how it’s an important part of her identity,” said Chodes-Squibb.

Knowing this about Sasha, Chodes-Squibb thought the new campaign and learning more about it would be an empowering experience for her.

“Children do not always believe in the power of their voice and I wanted Sasha to know that her voice is capable of creating change within our school,” said Chodes-Squibb.

The next day, Sasha was in the middle of her math lesson when her teacher pulled her aside and gave her several sheets of paper explaining what Stand Up to Jewish Hate was about, as well as a news article about Kraft and his inspiration for helping to start the blue square campaign.  The two talked about how Sasha’s sharing the blue square campaign could create a “ripple effect” of empathy and prompt others to be more inclusive.

“I simply nudged Sasha, but what she created was beyond powerful and inspirational to so many students and teachers,” said Chodes-Squibb.

According to her father, Jason Growe, Sasha has always had a strong interest in social justice issues. So when she decided to create a multimedia presentation on her own, explaining Jewish hate and antisemitism and how we can combat it, he wasn’t surprised.

“She even conducted an interview with Rabbi Amy Feder at Temple Israel, where we belong, as part of the slide show,” said Growe.

When her presentation was complete, she presented her work to the class.

“If I simply created the slideshow and didn’t share it with anyone, it wouldn’t do anything to fight Jewish hate,” said Sasha.

From there, it just grew. The two other third-grade classes invited her to present, and when the school counselor, Anthony Henderson learned about Sasha’s presentation, he offered to help her schedule presentations for other grade levels. By the end of the school year, Sasha had presented to every grade level at Meramec.

“Most of my classmates had questions. For example, why did antisemitism start and why has it lasted for so long?” said Sasha. “In one of my presentations, a student shared a time when he witnessed antisemitism. I was able to help that student and the others in that class know how to handle this if it happens again.”

The “ripple effect”

The ripple effect of Sasha’s work has been impactful. After her presentations, other students were inspired to be a part of the movement.

“One of my students created a presentation about stopping Asian hate. Another third grader was inspired to create a video about including all students at Meramec,” said Chodes-Squibb. “Another student started a presentation to add more inclusive playground equipment to Meramec’s playground.”

Sasha explained that her goal was to make people more aware of antisemitism and how it is not OK.

“I hope my classmates tell their parents about the blue square campaign so more people can help spread the word,” said Sasha.

“I don’t think that Sasha completely understands the power of her voice to inspire others,” said Chodes-Squibb. “However, I fully expect that as Sasha grows, she will begin to understand that she doesn’t need to wait to grow up to make a positive impact in our community –she has the power she needs within herself even as a third grader.”

Sasha’s Presentation