‘Actions speak louder than words’

The Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27 took 11 innocent lives. It has sparked a national conversation and the rise of other anti-Semitic incidents across the country in the past month.

According to an article by CNN, the FBI has recently released data showing that hate crimes across the U.S. have risen in the past three years, and in 2017, increased by 17 percent.

Along with the issue being prevalent on a national scale in various cities throughout the country, anti-Semitism has also begun to be seen in our own community, Pascack Valley. Five swastikas were found in PV and have been a topic of discussion ever since.

Although this hate speech is not representative of the majority of students, it is still a big issue at the school. Anti-Semitism has become desensitized at PV and throughout the U.S. — no one told a teacher or a member of the administration as soon as they saw this hateful graffiti. Why is this so?

An attack on one group should be an attack on all.

Photo by Molly Heintze

Regardless of if the perpetrators are drawing these swastikas as a joke, the symbol is not something to be carelessly used. I am tired of hearing that these despicable symbols are “not a big deal” because it will forever be significant to the Jewish community.

Kristallnacht. Ghettoes. Gas chambers. Swastikas are representative of the Nazi party who caused six million lives to be lost in the Holocaust due to the religion that they practiced.

The symbol is permanently engraved in the souls of the victims’ relatives. It acts as a reminder that this history should never be repeated or forgotten.

The suspects engaging in these drawings are evidently aware of what the swastika represents; however, they are unmindful of the impact that these symbols can have on those who are ostracized. They are brimming with ignorance and callowness.

Anti-Semitism stems from the household and those who the perpetrators associate themselves with. No one is born full of hatred or judgmental tendencies. These ideas are developed over time, and sadly, they have never disappeared, even at PV.

This serves as a wakeup call to take action. 

This serves as a wakeup call to take action.”

The Student Council has made the effort and organized a “Movement of Unity” for PV students to take the initiative and show that the community is unified and will not tolerate hate. However, many students chose not to participate in this movement and remained in their classes.

Many students justified their decision of not participating in the movement by stating that the main reason it was held was to maintain the administration’s reputation; however, this movement was student-led and organized, and media outlets, other than The Smoke Signal, were not allowed on PV’s premises.

The fact that students decided to stay inside while others walked to the turf field shows that the student body is divided over how the administration and student leaders have been addressing this issue. Although a student may not agree regarding how the situation is being managed, it is important for all students to unify in this time of need. This was just a small step in the right direction.

The school transforming from an intolerable climate to a place of acceptance and peace needs to come from the students. It is crucial for students to offer their insights if they believed that the situation was handled wrong — speak up and stop staying silent. They need to offer their ideas on how to solve this issue to teachers and administration or no change will ever be made. 

As a Jewish student at PV, I am a minority. I need other students to raise their voices in order to combat this hate speech. We have the power to show the perpetrators that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our school or community under any circumstance. 

We have the power to show the perpetrators that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our school or community under any circumstance.”

This short-term movement is not the end of the school’s battle. Long-term procedures need to be put into place, such as having a mandatory assembly with a survivor of the Holocaust and PSA videos discussing the impacts that the symbol can have on someone. All students need to be taught how the swastika, which was once a sacred symbol of peace and well-being in Buddhism and Hinduism, is now demonstrative of Nazi Germany.

These methods may not fully change the views instilled in the mindsets of the individuals, but it will leave them with the notion that these symbols are hurtful to many.

Actions speak louder than words.