REC Speaks Up: How Anti-semitism is Affecting Us






On Saturday, October 27, 2018, a horrible tragedy has struck the Jewish community during Shabbat
services: a shooting at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 11 people were killed, and six more were wounded, including four police officers. The suspect, Robert Bowers, is already in custody. This was a hate crime. Bowers targeted the synagogue because he is Anti-Semitic.

This event is very scary because it makes me think about how this could have happened to any one of us. The threat of anti-Semitism weighs heavily on me. As someone who goes to services often and helps out at the Hebrew School, I am constantly worried that something might happen to my friends or family. Anti-Semitism is a prevalent issue in our society, even though it seems like the world has gotten more tolerant.

Anti-Semitism seems to be getting worse with the emergence of more white supremacists and the creation of alt-right groups. For this reason, it is important to know how to respond to people that may say Anti-Semitic things toward you.

If someone says something hateful directed towards you, ask them why they think that way. If you
understand their thought process, it is easier for you to give them facts. Also, listening to them helps
them feel that you care about what they have to say. If they see that you are empathetic, their opinion of you may change for the better because you are defying the stereotypes they were led to believe. If you feel as though you are in danger from the way someone is speaking to you, tell someone immediately. Let someone know how you are feeling so the situation can be handled effectively. The most important thing is to be safe. No conversation should be put above your safety.

Be careful, my friends.



What Is the SA/TO Book Club? This Month’s SA/TO Down South by Allison Eisenberg


You may have heard about the SA/TO book club that is starting later this month. If so, you may be wondering what it is, and if you should join (you should!). I’m just going to take some time to answer some questions you might have about the book club, to try and encourage you to join!


What even is it? The SA/TO book club is a program in which we will read books and get to discuss them. This program will help bring SA/TO to the region, especially because our next regional convention is such a long way away.  We will have a thought provoking discussion over the book around once every two weeks over calls, WebEx, or Skype.


Why should you join? You will become more involved in today’s issues, and get to hear different perspectives on these topics. This is a great way to learn more about the world we live in. Members will also have the chance to get special siddur stickers for attending two or more meetings.


What will I have to do? For each book that we pick, all you have to do is read a certain amount by the meeting and come with an open mind ready for discussion. When you come to the discussions be prepared to tackle the topic, and bring any questions or thoughts that you had while reading the book. If you need any help when you’re reading the book, don’t be afraid to reach out to Jacob or myself!


How do I sign up? One way is to just come to the meetings prepared, but if you want extra reminders and emails you can sign up at!


I’m very excited to begin this amazing project! I hope you are too, If you have any questions,

please ask Jacob Laves or me.

SA/TO Down South by Ava Feer

A letter from Jacob: Even before the revival of the Swizzle, SA/TO Down South has been a cornerstone of SWUSY. It’s changed through the years and had many different authors, but at its heart SA/TO Down South has always maintained the same goal: to educate the region about Social Action issues in our region, in our country, and across the world. Everyone who writes for it has the freedom to explore whatever topic they want. This year’s inaugural SA/TO Down South was written by Ava Feer, a member of the SA/TO Squad, from HouJew. She explores one of the biggest topics of the last year, and touches upon the Jewish idea of welcoming the stranger.

The refugee crisis that emerged in the autumn of 2015, that was caused by violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has left hundreds of thousands of refugees surging toward mainland Europe, one of the largest human migrations since World War 2.

Refugees trying to escape the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia have faced many hardships. Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean. Many have been exploited and abused. Others have spent days stuck in freezing weather trying to cross various European borders. This crisis has shown the best and the worst of humanity and ordinary people have turned out to help the refugees as opposed to others who have exploited and shunned them.

Even though I am just seeing this tragedy on television, I am struck by the refugee camp for Syrians fleeing their homes. Whole families live in squalid conditions. Parents have no way to make money or provide for their kids and their children cannot go to school. I saw one interview in which the father of a family says he wished they never left Syria. This was shocking since the prospect of dying there was better than living in a refugee camp with no future.

European governments have been muddled in their response to the crisis. The Hungarian government built a fence along their border to keep migrants from traveling through Hungary to get to Germany. Balkan countries such as Serbia and Croatia responded by allowing migrants to travel through their land to reach other countries. Most northern European countries have welcomed migrants but recently Sweden and Denmark announced an increase in border controls and there is clearly opposition across Europe to taking more refugees.

The countries migrants travel through are small and poor, and some of them simply cannot cope with the sheer number of migrants. My mother is Croatian and I know first-hand that Croatia does not have the resources to host tens of thousands of refugees. This is why European nations need to work together to solve this problem. Quotas that are fair to all countries should be put in place. Money should be distributed to smaller and poorer countries to help ease the stress the migrants put on government resources. There is no good done by putting up border fences.


My family in Croatia has visited reception centers and brought the migrants anything they could spare; a few morsels of food, some clothing, some toys for children. Individuals can only so do so much though.  The governments must help these people. Until the European powers work together, this crisis will not diminish.

This crisis has a personal element for me. My parents met during the war that accompanied the disintegration of Yugoslavia. While they weren’t refugees, they were forced to leave. My father was an American journalist who was critical of the Croatian government and was advised he might be safer if he left Croatia. They did not take the threats seriously until a group of Croatian soldiers showed up at his house and started calling his name while shooting in the air. After that, they decided to leave because it was no longer safe to stay. Fortunately, they had the option of going to the US. Refugees now in Europe are faced with a similar dilemma before they set off on their trip in search of a better life. They had to decide whether to stay in their home and possibly be killed or take the risk of setting off into the unknown to find a better life.

There are many ways you can be part of the solution to this humanitarian crisis. The agency UNHCR is on the ground in countries such as Greece, and Italy and provide shelter food and water to refugees, they need all the donations they can get as winter is approaching and the flow of refugees shows no sign of easing. You can find out exactly how to donate at This is the biggest and most wide reaching aid agency helping refugees.

Doing the right thing is never easy. But the refugee crisis is a test for humanity. European powers need to show the world that no human life is valued above another and that they welcome people in search of a better life.