Baltimore Teens Speak Out About Antisemitism

With antisemitism on the rise, we wondered how local teens were dealing with it. Have they encountered antisemitism in their own lives? Are they worried about the upsurge on college campuses, as they begin their college search? 

We posed these questions to four teens who participated in 4Front, a teen program managed by the JCC, as part of our series asking teens about their concerns. Some of their answers may surprise you – including one teen who saw antisemitism first-hand when she sat next to a Neo-Nazi in a seventh-grade class. 

Evan Rosen, 11th Grade, Boys Latin 

Diller Teen Fellow 2023-2024

Evan Rosen

What does it mean to be Jewish and know that antisemitism is on the rise?  
Being Jewish has been an important part of my identity since the day I was born. While I practice and enjoy some of the religious aspects of Judaism, I believe being Jewish is very much a system of values through which we should live our lives.  

Everyone I know is aware that I am Jewish and proud of my faith. I love telling my non-Jewish friends about the Jewish religion and am privileged that they respect me for who I am, just as I do for them. However, I’m disturbed that there are some people who wish to blame Jews for various societal challenges that have many root causes having little to do with Jews, Judaism, Israel, or anything related to me.  

What did I do to them? Aren’t there different ways to resolve conflict? Can’t we find common ground? Antisemitism will not deter me from expressing my Jewish identity, and I will stand up against it whenever I see it. As a Jew, I have a responsibility to be a positive role model in all facets of my life and the rise of antisemitism is even more reason to amplify the impact I make in our community and on the world. 

When I thought of antisemitism previously (prior to the attacks), I thought that it was bad that they could only try to emotionally hurt me, but now, my eyes have been opened to the possibility that myself, for simply being Jewish, could be in harm’s way. However, this will not deter me. I will stand strong with my fellow Jews near and far, and we will get through this crisis like we have time and time again.

Are you worried about college and antisemitism? 
I would be lying if I said that rising antisemitism on college campuses hasn’t crossed my mind. I will be attending college to learn new skills, make new friendships, expand my horizons and enhance my career prospects. Each of these reasons is exciting, and I know that challenges also await me during my college years.  

Since I’ve been fortunate to have not experienced antisemitism in my life, I am concerned that my college experience will be disrupted by people whose views and actions are hateful, irrational, and naïve. I am all for freedom of expression and free speech but am worried that colleges are fostering environments that support division rather than understanding and belonging. In college, I will control what I can control and be vigilant should antisemitism become an obstacle to my experience. 

4Front is the Baltimore Jewish Community’s comprehensive teen initiative, managed by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and supported by The Associated, the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Joseph & Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, and other local donors.     

Julia Comoglio, 11th Grade, Dulaney High School 

Have you experienced antisemitism? 
I was seated next to a Neo-Nazi in 7th grade English class. A skinny, pale boy, clad in what looked like an old military uniform: thick gray cloth head-to-toe and a cabby cap. Though I found it odd, I never judged. Not until I saw him aggressively pencil in swastikas on his desk. I was appalled; I convinced myself I was seeing things. Ironically, we were on our Holocaust unit, and, to my surprise, he sat there, eyes on his shiny work shoes.  

Classes passed and nothing was done. I never spoke up. One day I heard rumors of this boy with the unknown name waving the Nazi flag above the stairwell among a flood of middle schoolers. It was never confirmed it was him though. Come to find, he disappeared soon after. My classmates and I ultimately assumed his antisemitism terminated his spot in our public school.  

Fortunately, he never realized I was Jewish, or else my experience could’ve been significantly different. I just wish someone talked to us about it: no administrator, no teacher, nothing. For some reason, I don’t think of the deranged kid that often, but I do hope for a world without so much hate. 

Jacob Lenet: 12th Grade, McDonogh School  

Diller Teen Fellows, Gesher Teen Board Member 

Jacob Lenet

What does it mean to be Jewish and know that antisemitism is on the rise? 
I believe being Jewish is being a part of a community greater than yourself, where we Jews look out for each other and protect one another from hate and injustice. I am proud to be a Jew for this reason and for the confidence and motivation that it gives me to stand up to such hatred, like antisemitism.  

I am very aware of the recent rise of antisemitism, but due to my own learning about this topic and understanding, I believe I know the best way to combat it. This is by education. Education on not only antisemitism and the terrors it brings, but also what the realities of Judaism are: what the Jewish people have had to fight through and, most importantly, the good we bring to this world. Antisemitism is clearly on the rise, but the most important thing I’ve gained from being a Jew is knowing I have a supportive community around me who is equally focused on preventing antisemitism as much as I am. 

College and antisemitism? 
I am not worried about college and antisemitism for two reasons. First, and personally, I believe I have the tools to stand up to antisemitism and protect myself and my peers from it. Much of this newly acquired knowledge came from the Kenneth Leventhal high school internship at StandWithUs, an organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism and educating the world about its atrocities.  

However, what I’ve learned is no good if I don’t share it, and I plan to educate my peers at college on Judaism, Israel and antisemitism to help spread awareness of the realities of Jews and why they shouldn’t be hated. This leads to my second point: I believe that this generation of teens and young adults has what it takes to change the world. Whether it be antisemitism or any type of injustice, I really believe that with proper education, this generation can gain the ability to create new norms in society that go against injustices and hatred towards specific groups of people and Jews. 

Kaitlyn Rochlin, 12th Grade, Roland Park Country School 

Diller Teen Fellow 

Kaitlyn Rochlin

Have you experienced antisemitism? 
As a Jewish teenager at a school with very few Jews, antisemitism is something that I have been thinking about more and more lately. Since I went to a Jewish day school through middle school, and most of my community outside of school is Jewish, I had not experienced firsthand antisemitism until my sophomore year. I had heard about instances and knew people who knew people who had faced issues but I did not think it would happen to me. 

After the incident, I felt more aware of my environment and more conscious of my religion. I have always been very open about being Jewish and I wear it with pride (literally wearing a necklace with my Hebrew name every day) but I was suddenly fearful and reserved about talking about my religion in certain environments. Over the last two years, I was a Diller Teen Fellow and went to Israel where I got to share my experiences and meet other Jewish teens from around the world. This trip reaffirmed my pride in how it had once been. I am now aware without being scared.  

College and antisemitism? 
While I am working on my college search, one thing that is very important to me is a Jewish population above 10%. As I go on tours and do research, I always look for a strong Jewish community and an active Hillel and/or Chabad. I have been involved in Jewish programs throughout high school and feel that I will thrive best in a space where I can have similar experiences.  

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