HomeJanuary 2024Student to Student

Student to Student

Spreading the knowledge of Judaism

Student to Student is a national program that allows for high school students to travel around their county to present to middle and high school classes about the Jewish experience. The goal for Student to Student ambassadors is to share personal stories about their connection with Judaism- whether that be sharing about Israel trips, Bar/Bat mitzvahs, family stories, traditions, and/or experiences with antisemitism and the Holocaust. Genuine connection with students is made when presentations are focused on personal experiences rather than lecturing.
    Each presentation starts with introducing ourselves and sharing which branch of Judaism we identify with, as well as where our family comes from. For example, I am a conservative Jew who is Sephardic and Ashkenazi. Sharing these facts about ourselves represents the diversity within the Jewish people as a result of the diaspora. We also tell students that Judaism is an ethno-religion. This is a topic we talk about in depth to explain our early connection to Israel and history of antisemitism. From there, we transition into the Jewish life cycle. Birth, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Weddings, and Death is covered. We show students a miniature version of the Torah, as well as a kippah and talit. Students mostly enjoy this topic as they participate in a wedding by standing under the chuppah with classmates shouting “Mazal Tov!” at the newly “married” couple! Other things we include are Jewish holidays, Shabbat, and Kashrut. We let students try challah and Hanukkah gelt. If the students find the kosher symbol on a pack or Oreos, they will eat them. This is our way of spreading our Jewish love of food.
    When discussing Israel, we lean towards sharing personal experiences rather than sharing only facts. This way, personal connection and stories are prominent in the way we speak about Israel. By doing this, it paints the country in a more positive light.
    The same idea is applied when talking about antisemitism and the Holocaust. It makes the experience more authentic and meaningful when presenters bring stories to share. We still give facts about the history of the Holocaust and antisemitism to briefly explain information on these topics. I’ve personally experienced an antisemitic incident in public school, which is where the majority of our presentations take place. I typically ask the class if they’ve ever heard antisemitic jokes in school and every hand is raised. This is when they also find out that Jews only make up 2% of the US population, yet make up the majority of religious based hate crimes.
    Other presenters will share the story of a Holocaust survivor- either from one they met or somebody in their family. Students can understand how we Jews are all connected to this tragedy one way or another. Sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors is how we take our part in making sure people never forget.
    Overall, Student to Student is the reason I’ve gained knowledge about Judaism and felt further connected to my Jewish identity. I’ve also developed stronger public speaking skills. My confidence with being in front of others and the information I share has improved greatly since beginning this program. Student to Student has also been an opportunity to connect with my Jewish peers and students around my county. An encounter one of my teammates had was with a girl who drew a picture of her during the presentation. This girl is Jewish but knew nothing about Judaism until we came to her class. Other experiences we’ve had were with students who became eager to compare and contrast Judaism from their religion. Others like to practice the Hebrew words we teach them and use them throughout our presentation. One student repeatedly said “Sababa!”, which is the Hebrew word for awesome.
    I’ve never felt more proud to be Jewish until participating in Student to Student. Together, my peers and I tell our story to those who’ve never heard it before and put a face to the Jewish people.
    If you know or someone who may be interested in joining Student to Student or know a school who would like to have STS visit their school, please contact Robin Steinmetz at rsteinmetz@jfedoc.org. Applications are now open for the spring semester on the Jewish Federation website. For more information please visit https://www.jewishorangecounty.org/studenttostudent. 

    Julia S. Kelley is a Cuban-American Jewish high school student from Orange County California. Since relocating to the area from Virginia in 2014, Julia personally experienced antisemitism in the local public schools, social media and beyond. As a result of these experiences coupled with Julia’s strong Jewish identity, she has become actively involved in raising awareness of the growing anti-Jewish bigotry and hate. Julia has participated in various programs through the Jewish Federation of Orange County. She is an ambassador for the Jewish Federation “Student to Student” program and presents to classes all around Orange County about Judaism and Israel. She has also been invited to speak on multiple panels to share her experience with antisemitism. Julia will continue to combat antisemitism by educating others about the Jewish experience.

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