Three British adults of different religious backgrounds meet during one of the forum’s teacher training days this past academic year. (Photo courtesy of Three Faiths Forum)
Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, as well as Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, attended this year’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in late June, along with several nongovernmental organizations.
One of these was the Three Faiths Forum, a British interfaith group whose volunteers of various religious backgrounds work to fight hatred through education, engagement, and action, focusing on youth. The group—composed of 70 regular volunteers, about 10 interns, and an advisory board of 200—develops and runs interfaith programs in more than 100 British schools, mentors students, trains teachers, and travels across the world from Dublin to Rio to promote its programs.
“We’re trying to reduce ignorance by increasing people’s knowledge about different faiths and beliefs and providing opportunities for continued interaction,” said the Forum’s Deputy Director Rachel Heilbron, who noted that in many of the British schools they visit, the majority of the children have never met a Jew. On more than one occasion, students have made comments embuing “all Jews” with certain traits or characteristics. The goal of the Three Faiths leader is to explain and discuss why it is unacceptable to think of a religious group as completely homogenous, a tendency that can lead to anti-Semitic stereotyping.
“We talk about why we wouldn’t say that and start to break down this idea that people from a single faith are all the same,” Hebron said.
In one of the high schools, a student asked the Jewish speaker, “Do you know Anne Frank?” This student had heard of the young girl who died in Nazi concentration camps but left her diary for all time, but she knew absolutely nothing about her, even that she was no longer alive. Yet, this was her only connection to Judaism. In one particularly difficult session, Hebron said, “We had some young people who were very concerned about the situation with the Palestinians, and their tone moved from concern to accusing a Jewish student…We’re dealing with a very tough situation, and a lot of ignorance. There’s a huge amount of work to do.”
There are countless other organizations diligently working to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, both in the United States and in Europe. Here are a few:
B’nai B’rith International: We are dedicated to shining a spotlight on hatred of Jews as a distinct and unique social illness. We supported the bill that eventually became law which created a State Department office to monitor anti-Semitism around the world. We work extensively with governmental officials, domestically and internationally, and with the 56-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism – United States: This office was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 and works to implement U.S. policy on anti-Semitism worldwide. The current envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, meets regularly with governmental leaders, ambassadors, educators, and nongovernmental organizations.
The Community Security Trust - United Kingdom: CST not only collects and analyses statistics about anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, but it also helps secure more than 170 synagogues, 80 Jewish schools, 64 Jewish communal organizations, and approximately 1,000 communal events. The Trust is also the go-to representative body of the country’s Jewish community for various governmental and policy-making bodies, academics, and the media.
The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism – Israel: Based at Tel Aviv University, the institute researches to anti-Semitism and racism and releases an annual report on anti-Semitism worldwide. It also constantly monitors incidents, publishes briefs and articles, sponsors lectures, and hosts various educational events.
Jewish Community Protection Service (SPJC) – France: This group, established by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, the United Jewish Social Fund, and others, has provided security for Jewish institutions since 1980.
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