Junior finds broader perspective on ADL trip to Washington

BP Photo by Murry Levine

By Miriam Bern, 9th Grade

Junior Emilie Benyowitz left Los Angeles for Washington D.C. on Nov. 13, where she took part in a four-day leadership training trip focusing on combating racism and educating students about the Holocaust.

Arranged by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization whose objective is to end the stereotyping of all people but especially Jews, the trip’s goal was to increase students’ awareness of racism and stereotypes so they could act and lead others in tackling prejudice.

And with Emilie at least, it succeeded.

“I now have an understanding of what the smallest remarks, such as jokes, can do and the effect they have,” said Emilie, who shared her experiences of the trip during Town Hall Dec. 8, “and I now realize the importance of standing up to racism.”

Admission to the all-expenses-paid program was competitive, and students were required to provide an example of a stereotype or prejudice to enter.

Emilie earned her way in by taking a photo of Shalhevet senior Josh Meisel—with his kippah clearly visible—standing below the front of the Islamic Center. She was later contacted and told that she was chosen to go along with nine other 11th graders from Los Angeles to attend the national program.  In all, 110 students were selected nationwide.

“There was a total of 110 kids that went on the trip,” Emilie said, “and it was very diverse…there was a mix of all different types of cultures and races from all over the country.”

In addition to meeting new people, she also describes the logistics of the program, which included visiting museums such as the U.S. Holocaust Museum and being split up into breakout sessions, in which the students would hear from various speakers.

“My favorite speaker, whose name was Maria Ruez, was a Freedom Rider.” Emilie said. “Her story was very interesting, and she taught me the impact that words have and how they can change your life.”

During the Town Hall, Eva Vega-Olds, a speaker from the ADL, further explained the aim of the trip.

“It was about anti-bias leadership and what is expected of us in society,” Ms. Vega-Olds said.

Even though the trip lasted a brief four days, Emilie said that the lessons learned were powerful, and something that the students wish to spread to schools all over.

Currently, the 110 students are working on a photo journal, which, according to Emilie, will contain photos of “isms,” such as racism, sexism, and anti-semitism. They plan to send the project to schools nationwide in order to educate other students of all ages about being unbiased and uniting as one in order to stand up to prejudice.

“We’re all the same,” Emilie said, “because at some point, we all have to fight through racism.”