By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

What would you do if you witnessed antisemitism? Would you know what it looked like? An event on Oct. 17 seeks to bring together Old Dominion University and the community for discussions about antisemitism.

"Unpacking Antisemitism: An Action-Based Workshop" is a free online event at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 that will examine antisemitism and strategies for combatting it. The event is open to all, but registration is required.

"In recent years, use of older antisemitic tropes and stereotypes has surged, and younger generations who may not recognize them aren't sure what to do when they see them," said Amy Milligan, Batten Endowed Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Women's Studies and director of ODU's Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding.

The workshop "will be discussing both antisemitism in 2021 as well as how we can begin to react and have proactive, helpful measures for how to be an active bystander, and we want to equip people with knowledge for when they see something, because we are seeing people ask for a real response of what to do," Milligan said.

Conversations about the need to raise awareness began among community partners in Tidewater when questions arose about the rising number of hate crimes against the Jewish community in the United States, Milligan said. The Anti-Defamation League reported some of the highest numbers of instances of harassment, vandalism and assault in 2019 and 2020 since the organization began tracking antisemitism in 1979, according to its annual report.

"The intention of this is not to shut down conversations between people but to enhance them, because we are all stronger when we're in this together," Milligan said. "We're given very little education of how to identify antisemitism outside of Holocaust imagery."

The hope is that the workshop will both help the communities of Tidewater get ahead of the problem and provide a forum to get to know each other, because "it is hard to hate people you know," said Robin Mancoll, chief program officer and senior director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, a partner on the event.

"We are really focused on the recent spike in antisemitism, but this is in the context of discussing all forms of hate," Mancoll added. "Being a good ally to one is a good ally to all, and we're hoping this is the beginning of wider community conversations that will combat hate in every form."

Speakers include Dara Horn, author of "People Love Dead Jews,"a new book that explores how Jewish history is exploited to comfort the living, along with speakers from the Anti-Defamation League, FBI, Robert Nusbaum Center at Virginia Wesleyan University and Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. Workshop attendees will receive a toolkit of resources.

The event is hosted by ODU's Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Konikoff Center for Learning of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater as part of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and the Simon Family JCC's Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.

Additionally, the ODU Libraries will host "Poems From the Holocaust" Revisited, a virtual evening of remembrance, at 7 p.m. Oct. 20. You can register at this link.

"Poems From the Holocaust" was written by composer Allan Blank and is based on children's poetry found at the Jewish concentration camp of Terezin after its liberation in 1945. The event will feature live performances and a panel discussion.

For more information, contact Lara Canner, curator of music special collections, at

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