JCRC Director's Note

Bringing You A Little Light

Max Patashnik Headshot

December 10, 2020

Chanukah is a festival of hope, light, and miracles. And this year, in what feels like perpetual darkness, we could all use a little more light and hope. Seattle is getting some in the form of our youngest leader thanks to the generosity and caring of Federation donors like you. 

According to the most recent FBI statistics, Washington State has the third most reported hate crimes in the nation. And, hate crimes and bias incidents in K-12 schools are on the rise, including disturbing incidents at our local schools. The great news is we have the opportunity to combat antisemitism in a whole new way through Student to Student –  a program run by teens to educate teens.

Student to Student combats bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance by breaking down stereotypes, spreading knowledge, building connections, and fostering understanding.  In small groups, local Jewish teens give presentations to non-Jewish peers. Through personal stories, they educate their fellow students about Jewish culture, customs, religion, and heritage, and authentically and respectfully respond to questions. 

Goodwill and understanding are best achieved through human interactions. As one student presenter from another community shared, “I always leave presentations with an incredible sense of accomplishment, realizing that through this program, I really could change some of the problems in the world today.” 

Student to Student began almost 30 years ago with the St. Louis JCRC and ten Jewish teens. Today, St. Louis trains over 100 students each year and has expanded its amazing program to nine cities across the country, including Seattle. 

Between sharing their experiences and knowledge of Jewish lifecycle events, Shabbat, and Israel, participants also talk about everyday things that students bond over regardless of background: hanging out with friends, favorite movies, and music. Presenters bring intriguing props to engage their audiences—challah, tallitot, Oreos—that give their presentations a tangible grounding. The presenters’ ability to connect with students at a human level enhances the program’s impact.

In Jewish Puget Sound, 12 courageous teens from across our community recently completed Student to Student training through your Federation and are ready to lead virtual presentations in classrooms across the region. These students have committed to sharing about their personal connection to and experiences with Judaism and have been trained to answer tough questions about Jewish stereotypes and Jewish beliefs. I am inspired by their commitment to our people and ot building a brighter world for all minorities!  

Student to Student spreads the light of goodwill and the hope of better understanding. It’s a program that promises to make a lasting impact to build a safer, more vibrant future for our community.

Do you know of a local high school that would benefit from a Student to Student presentation? Please reach out to Aliza Mossman, who runs your Federation’s Student to Student Program at alizam@jewishinseattle.org! To learn more about Student to Student watch this short video.

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Chanukah, 

Max Patashnik
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs