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JSU Stands Up Against Anti-Semitism

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On Saturday October 27th, Robert Bowers burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue with a semi-automatic rifle and three handguns. He yelled hateful comments and opened fire killing eleven people and injuring others, including four police officers. Suspect Robert Bowers is known to be an anti-semitist, as he was sharing his views about the Jewish community on social media. The U.S. Attorney, Scott Brady, is seeking the death penalty for Bowers and he has already received support from President Trump to go through with it. Bowers is being charged with 29 counts of criminal charges which includes hate-crimes.

An act of anti-semitism is something that hits close to home for the Jewish Student Union (JSU), a club at Dominion High School sponsored by Mrs. Korsen. The club is a newly-formed one, as it was formed last year, is a place where students can experience Jewish culture. Mrs. Korsen described the JSU’s mission as, “[A place] to bring people together; we have a small Jewish community in most high schools in Loudoun County, and we also have several non-Jewish students, and the idea is to share in the culture of Judaism and to have conversations about things that are happening within our community: To celebrate holidays and other things and to establish a sense of community within the jewish community.”

On Monday October 29th, Mrs. Korsen and her students in JSU attended a vigil in Leesburg to honor the victims of the shooting. Many politicians, including Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, attended as well as people from all different groups who came to show their support. “They had a Muslim student’s children’s choir and they sang a song in Hebrew, and then they sang Stand By Me and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” said Mrs. Korsen.

To Mrs. Korsen, the vigil was really impactful because it showed the community coming together in support of the Jewish people within that community. Although one thing that struck her was the feeling of vulnerability. “At one point right in the middle of it, it was weird, I turned to my friend and I said ‘I feel really vulnerable right now’ and I know I keep saying that word but all of a sudden I feel like we’re in that synagogue and I don’t feel safe anymore,” Mrs. Korsen said.

Despite the overwhelming amount of support that the congregation is currently receiving, Mrs. Korsen is worried that it won’t last. “My concern is that it doesn’t last and it fades away because it’s getting so common.here’s just so much to be done…the overall thing that I really want to stress is that it’s about you guys…it’s about handing this to the next generation and that’s the only way that things are going to change.”

In light of the recent attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, Jewish Student Union (JSU) co-president Genna Wolinsky explained her initial reaction as being a wake-up call saying, “We all know that anti-semitism still exists in this country and no one is really denying that, but like to see it, I think it was the biggest attack on American Jews ever is what they were saying, and so to see that people still nowadays think that about other groups and not even about Jews but about all other groups whoever it is, that people will still kill because they think that someone is different than them…it’s crazy.”

On the other hand, Mrs. Korsen said while choking back tears, “I’ve been in that situation a million times in an early morning shabbat service and it just killed the sanctity of what religion is supposed to be, for any religion and it just…my ultimate reaction is that we’re vulnerable.” Mrs. Korsen also mentioned that the hate towards groups is getting out of control saying, “It’s not just about anti-semitism, it’s about the hate going on for every group across this country right now because if you look at this past week there were the two African Americans that were killed and there was Matthew Shepard that was laid to rest bringing to mind crimes against gays”

Genna Wolinsky stressed that people need to stand up to hateful comments about the Jewish community saying, “Holocaust comments and stuff like that happen in our school and not even just about jewish people but also islamophobia…so even if it’s your friend, I know it’s hard to stand up against your friend, but it starts with little things like this and eventually it can turn into something like what happened.”

The JSU club has many things that they plan to do in the future in order to try and teach people about how even their small jokes about Jewish people can affect situations in the long run. Mrs. Korsen believes that one factor in solving this issue is through education, which her and JSU are going to strive to do.

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JSU Stands Up Against Anti-Semitism