The Jewish Education Project CEO David Bryfman promises the Jewish Futures conference will spark questions.

Photo: The Jewish Education Project/Jenny Gorman Photography
It wasn’t the Jewish Futures conference they wanted, but it was the one that was needed.

That was the framing laid out by The Jewish Education Project’s CEO, David Bryfman, speaking on December 4, 2019, to an auditorium at NYU’s Kimmel Center, packed with 300 Jewish educators and other community leaders, who had come to learn more about anti-Semitism.

Aptly titled “Pride & Prejudice: Jewish Education’s Battle Amid Growing Anti-Semitism,” the conference provided resources to Jewish educators faced with teaching children about the reality of the day.

UJA supports the work of The Jewish Education Project, one of our nonprofit partners.

“I never thought that as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, I’d be opening this conference about the oldest hate of all, but we’re proud to tackle this critical issue,” David said.

The point of the day, he continued, was not to provide answers, but to spark more questions.

Throughout the day, educators had the opportunity to think about anti-Semitism and its implications from multiple angles.

The many speakers included former violent white supremacist Shannon Foley Martinez, who shared her harrowing journey from a rage-filled adolescence to a life devoted to helping others escape a similar fate. Now a mother of seven, she told the educators in the audience how important it was to ensure that all children have a sense of belonging and a voice.

New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss enumerated examples of anti-Jewish incidents that had barely been reported by the mainstream media, concluding that while anti-Semitism is surging, few are willing to speak out against it. She added that the best way to fight back is “doing Jewish,” proudly embracing our Jewish identity, recognizing what a miracle it is that we survived through centuries of persecution.

And, as Bari pointed out, not only survived — but thrived.

Bari also spoke of having been bat mitzvahed at the Tree of Life synagogue, where on October 27, 2018, 11 Jews were gunned down.

At the very start of the day, David displayed the names and faces of those 11, as well as the woman killed in Poway, as the room grew quiet. It was a stark reminder as to why a conference about Jewish education and anti-Semitism has become necessary.

And by the end of the day, which continually stressed optimism over fear, it was clear that their names and memories had been honored.

 

To explore resources from the Jewish Futures Conference, go here

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