Students meet at virtual Anti-Defamation League summit to discuss anti-hate

AnnaLise Sandrich

Several sessions from the Never is Now summit have been recorded and posted on the ADL’s website

On Nov. 10, Nov. 12 and Nov. 17, 50 students from across the country met online for the first Edward Brodsky Student Fellowship to discuss oppressive systems and how to dismantle them. The fellowship was part of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2020 Never is Now Summit, an annual series of meetings that were held online for the first time this year.

The ADL is an organization primarily focused on fighting anti-semitism, as well as other types of hate and bias. They aim to promote anti-hate through petitions, education programs and summits such as Never Is Now. The Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) has recently been using ADL resources, such as the Confronting Antisemitism workshops presented by the JFCS Holocoast Center with the Marin County Office of Education and the ADL. TUHSD also plans to implement some of ADL’s education programs into classes at Redwood in March. 

As assistant director of synagogue engagement for the ADL, Hannah Sattler helped coordinate and co-facilitate meetings.

“This fellowship is a unique curriculum focused on deepening students’ understanding of systems of bias, oppression and privilege and learning how they can examine all those systems and come up with social action plans to bring back to their schools,” Sattler said. 

For example, in one meeting, students were asked to answer an anonymous poll with questions about oppression and bias in their lives. Junior Sarah Steele, who participated in the program, found experiences like these illuminating. The results of the poll helped Steele gain insight into both her own experiences and the experiences of others. 

“It was really surprising how many people felt that their community didn’t support [the fellowship students] in the most basic way. It was interesting to develop our own social identities and think of what makes us unique during this process of discussing oppression and internalized bias,” Steele said. “I selected that my school doesn’t necessarily accommodate being Jewish as finals are during Hanukkah.”

This year, ADL’s annual Never is Now summit was held online, including the new Edward Brodsky Student Fellowship program

Recently, the TUHSD has faced numerous incidents of anti-semitism, primarily hateful social media posts and accounts. However, anti-semitism at Redwood is not new.

“[Anti-semitism] is an issue that has flown under the rug for so long. I’ve opened textbooks and seen Swastikas, and nothing’s happened,” Steele said.

One of the larger goals of the meetings is to equip students with the tools to respond to similar hateful incidents. 

“What we’re really focusing on in the fellowship is how to take what you’ve learned about systems of oppression and bias and make that impact in your local community,” Sattler said. “I think school is the easiest community for students to make an impact. [The goal is to create] some sort of club that can investigate and respond to some of these issues at school or the community at large.”

Steele plans on applying what she learned at the fellowship to Students Organized Against Anti-Semitism, a club she co-founded in response to the recent anti-semetic incidents. Although the Never is Now summit has historically focused on anti-semitism, the fellowship aims to address all forms of hate and bias, according to co-facilitator Caterina Rodriguez.

Panelists discuss addressing anti-semitism and bias during the opening session of the Never is Now summit

“We take [the fellowship] into more of a general anti-bias direction. When one group’s humanity is at stake, all of our humanities are at stake,” Rodriguez said.

One of the unique advantages to being online is wider accessibility to the summit. Normally, the in-person setting would mandate that attendees needed to be within driving distance, but having the meetings online means that students from across the country with different perspectives can participate. 

Director of Professional Development Tabari Coleman, who also co-facilitated the fellowship program meetings, believes that having participants from different regions added to the experience. 

“I think the fact that there were students from all over the country created the opportunity for them to get different perspectives. Sometimes when we live in an environment, we tend to hear ideas … from similar vantage points,” Coleman said.

Rodriguez is proud of all the work that the first class of fellows did during the meetings, and is looking forward to next year. 

“It’s knowing that we have young people like the fellows who care about this and who want to get involved from a young age … that gives all of us at ADL a lot of excitement and hope for the future,” Rodriguez said.

If the Edward Brodsky Student Fellowship is held again next year, Steele hopes to participate, as the discussions had a profound impact on her.

“It’s important that people have an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation, because I know that a lot of conversations people have at Redwood are very surface level. We hardly get a chance to talk about the foundations of our society and the foundations of who we are as individuals. What you hear and what you learn [at the Edward Brodsky Student Fellowship] is so powerful,” Steele said.