How to confront racial prejudice and bigotry is one of many lessons Galloway School 11th-graders Eliza Frankel and Aden Simmonds brought home from the Anti-Defamation League’s 18th annual Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission to Washington from Nov. 5 to 8.
The mission’s goal is for students to bring lessons back to their schools to help fight prejudice in their communities, said Shelley Rose, the ADL’s senior associate director in the Southeast Region. “We want the students to come back fired up and wanting to make a difference in the world.”
With money from Jewish Atlantans Lynne and Howard Halpern, the ADL’s Buckhead office sent nine high school juniors to Washington — three from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee and two each from North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs, Galloway in Buckhead and the Marist School in Brookhaven.
They were part of a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse group of 80 students, with others coming from New York and Albany, N.Y., Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif., Denver, New Orleans, and Florida.
The core of the program was a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where students heard from civil rights leaders and Holocaust survivors.
“I was shocked by the brutality and the sick nature of the whole scheme,” Aden said after a tour of the museum. “They first took away Jews’ rights as citizens and then began to dehumanize them.”
He, Eliza and the others also participated in sessions to learn leadership skills and techniques to fight hate.
Aden said he hopes to teach fellow Galloway students how to confront hate and respect others even when you do not agree with them.
“Hate is still around, even though it might not be in front of you. … Having a good, respectful conversation rather than an argument is important,” he said. “It will take a long time to get rid of hate, but the mission put the next generation in the right direction to help stop it.”
Eliza recalled a film at the museum about the oppression of Jews throughout history and said it is important to keep in mind when opposing bigotry.
“Anti-Semitism didn’t occur all at once but was built layer by layer until it inevitably led to the Holocaust,” she said. “I sometimes hear people make insensitive jokes and then play it off, which can often lead to something much worse. We need to be able to tell these individuals that this is not OK.”
Before the mission, Eliza said, she met a lot of Holocaust deniers, so it was important to learn about the Holocaust to bring the facts home. “I want to share with everyone in the community that the Holocaust did happen but does not have to again.”