BETHESDA, Md. — On the morning of the first night of Hanukkah, a group of Jewish students and educators met to discuss tactics to combat discrimination.
The workshop, put on by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC), happened Sunday morning at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue in Bethesda.
It comes one day after the words "Jews Not Welcome" were scrawled on the school sign at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda.
Incidents like that motivated the JCRC to host the workshop discussing skills to cope with and battle antisemitism. It was geared specifically towards 7th and 8th graders who are preparing to make the transition to high school.
Sara Scherlinder, a Jewish senior at Jackson-Reed High School in D.C., helped facilitate the class.
"You don't feel...welcome in a school if there's hate speech in front of it that is directed to anybody, but especially directed to you," she said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks reports of antisemitism nationwide, recorded more than 2,700 incidents of anti-Jewish assault, vandalism, or harassment in 2021--the most recent full year of available data. According to the ADL, that's the "highest number of incidents on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979."
Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky, the Director of Intergroup Relations and Rabbi in Residence at the JCRC, says she's seen that trend play out in our region.
"It's no longer a... surprise [when antisemitic incidents are reported]," she said.
"No one should be used to this," Sharofsky added.
Still, she's optimistic that this latest incident at Walt Whitman will serve as a catalyst for improvement.
"I hope that we're in a place where we're talking about a time that not only the Jewish community stood up to antisemitism, but other faith communities stood up to antisemitism," said Sharofsky.
It's a hope that, in the future, workshops like the one she helped lead Sunday morning will no longer be necessary.
Guila Franklin Siegel, Associate Director of the JCRC, shares that hope.
Until that happens, though, she says the Jewish community will not be intimidated by acts of antisemitism.
"Even as there was a sign saying 'Jews are not welcome here,' we know we are welcome and we are here to stay," she said.