Meet the Moms Who Are Fighting Antisemitism With Jewish Pride

As antisemitism spikes around the country, moms are fighting back, embracing Jewish joy, and spreading Jewish pride.

Elizabeth Savetsky lighting Shabbat candles with her daughters

Courtesy of Elizabeth Savetsky 

Last year, former Real Housewives of New York cast member Lizzy Savetsky was in Paris, France when a friend who lives in the City of Light told her to remove her Star of David ring. She not only felt "horrible to be in a place" where she couldn't be herself but couldn't help but think of how people must have felt in pre-Holocaust Europe. "It went against every fiber of my being to hide something that our family has always been so loud and proud about," recalls Savetsky. "Wearing our Judaism with pride had always felt like a victory over Hitler, and in that moment, that feeling of victory was taken away from me."

She recalls, “The idea of being targeted simply because I am a Jewish person seemed so unbelievable after everything the Jewish people have been through and the progress the world should have made,” recalls the New York City-based mom of three whose husband's grandma came out of Auschwitz weighing 73 pounds. "Her brother, who also survived, told us, 'You think you are comfortable in America. We were very comfortable in Europe until we weren’t. Don’t be fooled by your current comfort. It could absolutely happen again,'" says Savetsky.

Indeed, Paris is far from the only place where Jewish people feel threatened in 2022, notes Savetsky, who has heard “more and more stories of people taking off their yarmulkes on the subway here [in New York City] because they do not feel safe.”

“The hate seems to only be growing,” says Savetsky, who says a friend was recently attacked, beaten, and called “a dirty Jew” in Times Square “simply because he was wearing a yarmulke.” 

The New York Police Department reported on December 5 that hate crimes motivated by antisemitism are up 125% since last year. And that trend mirrors what’s happening across the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has been tracking hateful incidents since 1979, found that 2021 was the highest year on record for reports of harassment, vandalism, and violence directed against Jews. The numbers are part of a five-year pattern, and the group expects 2022 numbers to look equally horrifying. 

But instead of putting away their Star of David jewelry or otherwise hiding their Judaism in public, Savetsky and other Jewish parents are turning to pride and joy as ways to fight back against the terrifying uptick in antisemitism. 

Why Parents Need to Fight Antisemitism Now

From the 15th century’s Spanish Inquisition to the pogroms (anti-Jewish riots) of the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, during which the Nazis killed about six million Jewish people between 1939 and 1945 alone, and many other moments in time, Jews have been the target of hate. Today, fewer than .2% of the world’s population is Jewish.

“Our very survival is on the line,” says Savetsky. “We have to look to the past as a lesson. The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers. It started with antisemitic propaganda and hate speech, not unlike that which we are seeing today from public figures with huge audiences.” 

The New York City mom’s natural response to that reality is to take a stand. “The great Rabbi Hillel said, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’” she says. “If we, as Jewish parents, do not stand up for ourselves and our children, how can we expect anyone else to fight on our behalf? If our priority as parents is a beautiful and safe future for our children, we must prioritize this fight. If we want our children to be able to wear their Judaism as a badge of honor without fear, we must do everything in our power to raise awareness about the dangers of the current antisemitic climate that is rapidly penetrating the fabric of our culture.”

Ariel Stein, mom of two and founder of lifestyle sites Ariel Loves and Jewish Family Magic

"It is important for me to instill a love of Judaism in my children and empower them to feel proud and happy to be Jewish."

— Ariel Stein, mom of two and founder of lifestyle sites Ariel Loves and Jewish Family Magic

While hate directed at Jewish people has existed for centuries, Molly Tolsky, a mom and editor of 70 Faces Media’s Jewish feminist site Hey Alma and Jewish parenting site Kveller, notes that many Jewish parents didn’t see “antisemitism playing out so prominently and constantly in the news and in our lives.... And we don't want our children growing up in this kind of world,” she says. “The lessons of the Holocaust and antisemitism throughout history have been so deeply ingrained in us, often from a very young age, that we know the importance of fighting it before it gets even worse.”

Jewish Pride is a Generational Value

Many parents are responding to the hate by even more proudly standing in their identity—and raising their children to do the same. Karen Cinnamon, founder of Jewish wedding platform Smashing the Glass and founder of Your Jewish Life, a podcast, Instagram, and newsletter, is a mom of two girls. “A lot of us were raised to hide our Jewishness, diminish our Jewishness out of fear, and it's a bad habit that we have carried on into adulthood,” she points out. “And the best way to change that trajectory for your children is to be proud, proud Jews ourselves and go all in on the things that spark meaning and joy for us as Jews.” 

For Cinnamon, that could look like “buying a challah together, lighting Shabbat candles, stocking a Jewish library, playing Jewish music, dancing around the living room to your favorite Jewish songs."

“What are the things that spark meaning and joy for you?” she encourages Jewish parents to ask themselves. “Go all in with that, and your children will copy.”

Ariel Stein, mom of two and founder of lifestyle sites Ariel Loves and Jewish Family Magic, similarly aims to nurture her children’s Jewish pride. “For me, it is important for me to instill a love of Judaism in my children and empower them to feel proud and happy to be Jewish,” she notes. 

Facing hate head-on is a must, as well. Savetsky is having difficult conversations with her three kids, which has led them to take action themselves. The family was living in Dallas when, in January 2021, a man held hostages for more than 10 hours at a nearby synagogue in Colleyville. The following day, Savetsky’s daughters made big signs that said “Jewish & Proud” and stood outside of the synagogue and talked to reporters from around the country. Her eldest, Stella, 10, told one outlet, “We don’t have to be afraid all the time. We know it might be scary, but it will be OK because we are strong.” 

Savetsky notes that her daughters also proudly educate social media followers about Judaism. Hate is born out of fear of the other,” says Savetsky. “By teaching people about who we are, hopefully we can open their minds and hearts.”

Moms Use Education to Fight Hate

Jewish parents are also combating hate in their professional lives. Savetsky recently sat down with NYC Mayor Eric Adams who reached out to her to talk about the rising antisemitism in the city. "He is extremely concerned and shared that he has a plan of action to combat the hate," she notes. "I am hopeful I can use my personal experiences and my platform to help make NYC a safer place for the Jews." 

Stein says that what she shares on social media is generally in an effort “to educate about Jewish culture, religion, and history; to raise awareness about the rise and normalization of antisemitism and the dangers it poses to our communities; to empower Jews to be proud of who they are; and to encourage non-Jewish allies to support the Jewish community.” 

Tolsky, as the editor of two Jewish publications, spends much of her time recently thinking about how she’s covering antisemitism. 

“It's so important to talk about what's going on and raise awareness, and also, offer a space for our online Jewish community to convene and process together,” she notes, explaining that a basic rule of thumb is to not merely call out antisemitism but “to explain exactly why it is, going through the history of antisemitic tropes, and providing easy ways for our audience to share this information with their friends on social media.” 

At the same time, she aims to provide her audiences with the opportunity to share Jewish stories of joy, humor, “all the other wonderful aspects of being Jewish, and even the other challenging aspects that don't have to do with antisemitism—so that we remember that antisemitism doesn't define us.”

As told to Lizzy Savetsky by a Holocaust survivor in her family

"'You think you are comfortable in America. We were very comfortable in Europe until we weren’t. Don’t be fooled by your current comfort. It could absolutely happen again."

— As told to Lizzy Savetsky by a Holocaust survivor in her family

How to Join the Fight Against Antisemitism

Jewish parents beat back antisemitism because it’s second nature, says Tolsky. “We know it will always be us leading the charge,” she notes.

Still, seeing people from other faiths and backgrounds pitch in, speak out, and take a stand is appreciated and serves as “a huge boost,” adds Tolsky. “It’s a reminder that we're all in this together. Seeing people with big platforms who don't usually talk about this stuff sharing the jarring things happening in the news or the ways they're personally affected by antisemitism can make a big impact.” 

There are several ways anyone can make a difference.

Report or help someone report antisemitic incidents

If you or someone you know have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, you can report it via a form on the Anti-Defamation League’s site

Speak out against anti-Jewish bigotry—online and off

This could entail sharing informative posts on social media or calling out a trope face-to-face. “I love when people recognize that allyship means speaking out against any and all forms of bigotry,” says Jordana Horn, a Kveller contributor and mom of six. “It moves me so much when non-Jewish people use their voices to speak up for us and to speak against antisemitic hate.” 

Amplify Jewish voices

Make a point to follow Jewish content creators, then share their posts with your social network. “Listen when Jews share their experiences and do your own research,” encourages Stein. If you’re looking for a place to get started, check out her blog on Jewish Instagram accounts, which includes 100+ Jewish Instagram accounts across all different niches.

Strive to be as inclusive as possible, even in tiny ways

When talking about holidays or other religion-based practices, consider people of faiths other than your own. Even posing a question in a slightly different way can have a hugely positive effect. For example, Horn loves when she sees someone ask, "If you celebrate Christmas, when do you put up your tree?" rather than "When do you all put up your Christmas trees?" “The latter operates comfortably under the inaccurate assumption that absolutely everyone is Christian,” she notes. “That is a small thing, but not an insignificant one.”

Read about Judaism and Jewish history

The current spike in antisemitism isn’t helped by the fact that 31 states don’t require schools to teach the Holocaust. As writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And if you can’t remember, you can learn. 

“Read up on Jewish history and works written by Jews,” advises Stein. “It is not enough to dislike antisemitism. Understanding Jewish history (and not just the Holocaust) will help you understand the Jewish experience.” A few titles she recommends:

Support Jewish-owned businesses

Whether you’re looking for clothes, jewelry, cookbooks, food, or any kind of art, you can find Jewish creators to support.

Donate to Jewish-affiliated organizations

Various nonprofits and initiatives fighting antisemitism need resources. Consider giving to organizations like:

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles