Young people have the power to stem the tide of anti-Semitism and other hateful incidents, said Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston Office.
“The most powerful thing you have is your voice,” Mr. Trestan told students. “Speak out. If you do it collectively, you can make a huge difference.”
Speaking to Class II students, Mr. Trestan described what the ADL has logged as significant increases in bias incidents and hate, both in person and online. According to the ADL, the first quarter of 2017 saw an 86 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the same time period in 2016.
Anti-Semitism and incidents of white supremacy are intrinsically related in the United States, Mr. Trestan said, citing August’s violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, where people carried signs with Nazi insignia and shouted anti-Jewish slogans while protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. The ADL has logged incidents closer to home, he said, noting two acts of vandalism at Boston’s Holocaust Memorial and anti-Semitic graffiti across public spaces in Massachusetts.
Mr. Trestan said many of the incidents were met with a strong community response by people who decry anti-Semitism, racism and bias, indicating that such views are not welcome. He encouraged young people to continue the work of rejecting hate whenever they encounter it and said the ADL’s website provides a page where the public can report bias incidents.
“None of us wants to live in a country or community where this is common,” he said. Mr. Trestan’s visit to Milton was sponsored by the Jewish Student Union.
Founded at the turn of the last century in response to widespread anti-Semitism in the United States, the ADL responds to bias and discrimination against all marginalized groups with advocacy and education.