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Jewish students fight hate in the High Holy Days with education

KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez takes us on campus to talk with some high school students doing their part to share their faith.<br/>

The Jewish community across San Diego County continues to celebrate High Holy Days.

This week marks Rosh Hashanah, the New Year 5783 on the Jewish calendar.

On the campus of Patrick Henry High School, students have organized themselves in a group they call the Jew Club. It's an untraditional name they said honors their very traditional faith. They meet once a week at lunchtime. Zoe Linden,17, is a senior who has attended the club since she was a freshman.

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Every year, there are incidents of hate speech and discrimination against the Jewish community.

“It makes me not want to embrace my religion and be open about it. It makes me not want to tell people,” she said.

The club is supported by Rabbi Devorah Marcus, leader of the nearby Temple Emanu-El in Del Cerro.

Marcus was a guest speaker Wednesday and brought gifts of apples and honey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi also mentors the students on the harsh reality of remaining faithful in the current political climate.

“(There’s a problem) when we allow ourselves to identify anyone who we don’t like as a Nazi or analogize people who we find to be politically unappealing, we desensitize who and what the Nazis actually were,” she said.

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Jews are now in a period known as the Days of Awe. The time between the new year and the holiest day of atonement is Yom Kippur. Marcus said it is a time for the Jewish community to be most open, vulnerable, and honest. It is also a time for forgiveness and to educate those who are against them.”

Memories of Pittsburgh and Poway are still fresh. In 2019, one woman was killed and three other people injured at the Chabad of Poway by a self-proclaimed white supremacist on the last day of Passover.

Six months earlier to the day, there was an antisemitic terrorist attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pennsylvania. Eleven people died in the attack and six were wounded, including several Holocaust survivors.

Ben Mathews,17, is another senior at Patrick Henry High School who is active in the weekly Jew Club meeting. He said, “I’ve had more friends who were more curious rather than abrupt with their conversation and language towards me. I’m really excited to be out there educating and being part of the holidays.”

Corrected: September 30, 2022 at 11:40 AM PDT
An earlier version of this story misstated the date the Tree of Life synagogue attack happened. KPBS regrets the error.
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