Jewish Federation Aims to Stop the Hate with Symposium and Contest

   The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County is excited to announce the winners of our annual Stop the Hate Challenge, sponsored by our Zachor Antisemitism Initiative. The contest was open to all 7th-12th grade students in Orange County.

   Winning entries this year were poems based on the topic: “Agents of Positive Change”.  Ms. Susan Notar, Chairperson of the Zachor Antisemitism committee introduced the winners and their entries. Mia Lynn Crovetto, an 8th grader at Monroe Woodbury Middle School, wrote about Ida B. Wells in her poem: “Freedom of Speech, at What Cost?” Naa Korkoi Areetey, a 10th grader at Warwick Valley High School wrote about Ruby Bridges in her poem: “Billions of Flowers”. Both students read their winning entries alongside their teachers, Ms. Kristen Carter and Ms. Marilyn Brozyki Smith. The students and their teachers received cash prizes. 

   The 2022 symposium was held at Washingtonville High School on April 26th and was sponsored by the Jewish Federation, the Washingtonville High School Social Studies Department, and the Mid-Hudson Social Studies Council. Approximately 50 middle schoolers, high schoolers, educators, and administrators from school districts across the county gathered to learn about “Scandinavia During the Holocaust: The Impact of Leadership and What We Can Learn by Modeling Agents of Positive Change.” 

   This year’s symposium was centered on the documentary, "Passage to Sweden." A film from Bubble Soup Productions, directed by Suzannah Warlick. "Passage to Sweden" tells the lesser-known story of events that occurred in Scandinavia and Budapest, Hungary during WWII. It focuses on the heroic actions of ordinary people who saved the lives of thousands of Jews and fellow countrymen. After the documentary, students and educators took part in small group activities based on some of the following prompts; What factors influence people to act or not to act in the face of trouble? How can leadership in the smallest ways make the greatest difference? After small group discussions, some students shared their observations with the group. Some of the student comments were, “No matter your power, you can make a difference in the world”, “Powerless people did little things that had big effects”, and “People helped not for a reward but just because it was the right thing to do.”  

   After dinner, participants were treated to a Question and Answer session with both the film’s director, Warlick, and educator/author, Chana Sharfstein. The students were able to ask questions of the director, and learned about the challenges and joys in making the film. Warlick commented on how so many of the Holocaust survivors who spoke in the film are no longer with us. This was a great reminder about the importance of preserving survivor testimony on film so we are able to bear witness and honor their memories. Ms. Sharfstein reminded the students that they all have the capacity to be leaders, to stand up to hate, and to make this world a better place. 

Billions of Flowers

She was a little girl back then, just 5 years old, 
A ruby rose amongst snow and cold.
And inthe face of a world unwelcoming and cruel,
A girl named Ruby Bridges, never missed a day of school.

A new world was beginning, one step at a time. 
A movement for justice, still inits prime.
A flower born into a desert full of strife,
Spread her petals far and wide, bringing new life.

She steps out, early inmorning, to go to school, 
Ruby Bridges, a girl akin to a jewel.
goes to school were she's not welcomed, 
Where people like her are very seldom. 
An Amber kiss in a field of Gardenia pale, 
Ruby Bridges blooms and will prevail.

The day breaks, and she'd walk to class
And as she walked, many people she'd pass. 
They'd scream and shout and rage and pout, 
Yet, the day breaks, and she'd walk to class.

What inspires the hate of a race?
For their hair, their skin, the features of their face.
lf my petals don't match yours, will you tum away? 
Petals dark and rich that shine gold in the day
Will never match yours, yet our stems are all green, 
Our water is all wet, our roots all unseen.

There are billions of flowers, spread across Earth. 
Pale flowers with shiny petals,
Dark blooms that drip dew as day settles. 
And yet, all water is wet, all bloom in spring, 
Deep down, all made of the same thing.
I see myself inRuby, in a little girl with curled hair.
With flowers and bows and a dress worn with care.
She moved with grace, like a flower toward sun,
Stared the light in the face until day was done.

I am Ruby, in what I thought was the worst way. 
Yet as sun shines and moon dips, day after day 
My struggle is the best of me. I see that now.
In the way rosemary blooms on a tongue when ground,
In the way books tell stories despite being bound,
I am but a flower waiting to bloom after snow, 
After sorrow and sadness, I am able to grow.

A little girl back then, yes, 5 years old,
My petals bloomed, green stem and shining gold. 
I bloom with a million shades, a beautiful brown,
Against the snow of an unfamiliar town.
And inthe face of a world unwelcoming and cruel,
I have yet to miss a day of school.

Naa Korkoi Areetey, a 10th grader at Warwick Valley High School with her mother, her teacher, Ms. Marilyn Brozyki Smith and Kathy Kimball-Wurster, Zachor Director.

Freedom of Speech, at What Cost?

The First Amendment, manipulated and exploited since the day
James Madison's fingers grasped the pen that wrote the Bill of Rights.
The notion that freedom of speech does not equal freedom of consequences is here to stay, 
Even ifwe have to stand hand in hand, forced to engage in fights.

Some still believe that this idea is a complete, blatant lie.
As ifone of these individuals is having falsehoods planted in their mind. 
So they take to social media to whine and cry.
Unaware of how hilariously ironic they sound, how blind.

Ida B. Wells is among those in history who know without a doubt
That this freedom granted to all does not permit hate speech.
Her goal in life being to silence those who decide to pout, 
Who desire to spread hate, who you can compare to a leech.

This undeniable hate being based on how diverse
Someone is, whether it has to do with their religion or skin.
This hate has existed worldwide for years, and has only gotten worse. 
Though some translate it into words, and say them with a grin.

Wells responded to racist lies backed by prejudice
By reporting what she had witnessed and heard.
She wanted to put an absolute emphasis
On what these ignorant people had slurred.

Even after Well's voice was being suppressed,
Her goal remained and she continued to speak out. 
She needed to honor those lost and so she progressed. 
A change was going to be made, so yes she did shout.

Wells made this change, though it took quite a lot. 
She helped advance the topic of rights for a minority, 
Giving them something they never had before, a shot.
A shot at being recognized, as someone with authority.

Although I am still a minor and continuing to grow, 
I still have seen The effects of hate speech on both my friends and peers.
A Jewish friend being targeted, with others cringing at the scene, 
A classmate whose skin color has been commented on for years.

With a woman like Wells who has inspired me,
I will take advantage of the voice that I possess.
Informing others and making a change is completely free.
I, as a role model inmy community, will experience success.

Mia Lynn Crovetto, an 8th grader at Monroe Woodbury Middle School, with her parents, her teacher, Ms. Kristen Carter and Federation Executive Director Wendy Cedar.