Sarah Steele and Devon Soofer co-found SOAAS in response to anti-Semitic events in the Redwood community

Nina Geoghegan

Despite online school only having been in session for a few months, quite the amount of pandemonium has ensued this semester, including the sudden appearance of anonymous anti-Semitic Instagram accounts. Surfacing at the start of September, the upsetting social media presence garnered the attention of many, including juniors Sarah Steele and Devon Soofer. The pair took matters into their own hands, starting the Students Organized Against anti-Semitism club (SOAAS).

Being of Jewish descent, Steele and Soofer felt personally targeted by the accounts, prompting them to create the club as a safe place for all students. With both Jewish and non-Jewish members, SOAAS has become a way to express to the people behind the accounts that the Redwood community will not tolerate these acts of anti-Semitism 


Steele and Soofer were motivated to create the SOAAS club after the appearance of anti-Semitic Instagram accounts. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Steele)

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to Redwood with this person still walking the halls, but I didn’t want to show that I was afraid. I have to stand up for myself,” Soofer said.


According to Steele, though anti-Semitism had always been a constant burden in her life, the accounts’ creation was the most alarming act she has experienced. 

“People don’t generally understand why making a list [of Jewish students] is so impactful, but that’s what Hitler and the Nazis did. The fact that [the list’s creator] is resorting to the same tactics is terrifying,” Steele said. “[Soofer and I] couldn’t just sit idly by and let this happen.”

Steele and Soofer also decided to start SOAAS because they feel the school did not take enough action to combat the anti-Semitic acts. The two students believe that in order to make a difference and push for progress, the topic needs to be discussed more, both inside and outside the classroom. 

“As students, we are going to stand up for what’s right and make a change. We are not going to wait for the adults to do or not do something: it’s up to us. We were so upset about the lack of response. The fact that we’re still talking about the [issue of antisemitism] is why [Soofer] and I took it upon ourselves,” Steele said. “We need to advocate change in our curriculum that includes everybody — not just the white perspective, not just the male perspective, not just the straight perspective, but everybody.”

While starting a new club was more difficult over Zoom, the club has been running smoothly. Junior Nicole Hoelzle, a member of the education committee section of SOAAS, is grateful for the opportunity to become a part of a bigger, more progressive community and admires the founders virtual leadership.


Steele and Soofer hope to incorporate parts of their club into the school’s curriculum to help defend against anti-Semitism. (Photo courtesy of Devon Soofer)

“Especially because of Zoom school, I think [the club] is a great chance for kids to come together when we’re apart,” Hoelzle said. “[Soofer and Steele] created a nice platform for kids.”


While both Steele and Soofer are proud of the difference their club has made thus far, they do wish they were able to have meetings in person, as that would make the discussions more impactful.

“Social justice clubs are not meant to be held over Zoom. We’re supposed to be having dynamic discussions in person,” Steele said. “It’s just really hard when we can’t go and stand in front of a Social Issues class and present about antisemitism and its impact.”

The two continue to work towards making change, as they desire to better equip students against anti-Semitic situations. 

“I can count on [the club members] to support me and stand up for me when I can’t [stand up for myself],” Steele said.

SOAAS, Students Organized Against Homophobia (SOAH) and Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) are currently planning a march for peace sometime during the second semester. The club is optimistic but recognizes they may have to change their plans as Marin is presently in the COVID-19 purple tier. The groups hope that the protest will act as a way to ensure 2021 starts on a more inclusive note.

If you are interested in joining SOAAS, visit their Instagram page @redwoodsoaas and fill out the linked form in their bio. The club meets on Wednesdays at lunch.