When Lucy New and Sofia Vatnik, then Marblehead High School juniors, founded the Teen Antisemitism Task Force in 2020, they did not know that a few short years later the work of the Task Force would be more important than ever. With antisemitic acts at an all-time high in the U.S. and a surge in K-12 antisemitic incidents as reported in ADL’s 2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the Task Force is an important resource for teens who are working to combat antisemitism.

Under the leadership of this year’s co-chairs, high school senior Arielle Mogolesko of Marblehead and Gann Academy sophomore Teddy Friedman of Needham, the Task Force explored antisemitism from a variety of angles. Guest speakers this year included: Charlotte Korchak from Stand With Us, Congressman Jake Auchincloss; Joey Cohen and Ferenc Puskas from the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism; and Amy Feinman, ADL civil rights counsel. A couple of sessions were devoted to teens sharing their experiences about what’s happening at their schools and on social media and seeking advice from each other.

With Arielle leaving for college, an opportunity became available for a teen to step up in a leadership role to join Teddy Friedman as co-chair. Three teens answered the call, and they will assume the role of co-chairs for 2023-2024: Max Hubbard and Presley Jacobson of Newton and Maddie Katzen of Georgetown.

Each of the co-chairs comes to the position for a variety of reasons and skills. Presley said, “I accepted this co-chair position for the Teen Antisemitism Task Force because I wanted a platform to both bring awareness to antisemitism, something I often find to be overlooked, and to meet other students my age with a similar interest.” She plans to bring passion, enthusiasm, and a plethora of ideas to the work of the task force. Maddie stepped up to serve as co-chair because of her recent trip to Israel on Lappin Foundation’s Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I). “The trip helped me rediscover my Jewish identity, and I wanted to become more involved. The Task Force opened my eyes to the power of education and action, and while seeing antisemitism on the rise around me, I felt inspired to make a change,” she said.

Max recognized the work of the Task Force as an opportunity to expand its reach to educate students in high schools in his hometown of Newton. “I think the accomplishments of the Task Force, like the seminar letting us know our rights in incidents of antisemitism, highlights how far it could go in becoming a powerful tool for education,” Max said.

Arielle emphasizes the value of bridge-building with teens of other faith communities. “Antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem; it’s society’s problem,” Arielle explained to teens. Where there is hatred of Jews, there is hatred of others as well. The Task Force welcomes the help of any teen who wants to combat antisemitism.

High school teens of all faith backgrounds and heritages are welcome to join the Task Force, regardless of where they live. Teens as far away as Virginia, Florida and Chicago have attended programs sponsored by the Task Force. Meetings are held monthly on Zoom and will resume in the fall. Teens who are interested in joining the Task Force can register here.

The Teen Antisemitism Task Force is supported by the Jewish Teen Initiative and CJP, and by donors to Lappin Foundation’s Annual Campaign.

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