This young Jewish woman and a young Muslim woman teach schoolkids about racism

In the last two years, Stand Up! has run seminars for more than 10,000 students in 55 schools around the UK


The classroom is full but attentive, with the students, aged 14 and 15, sitting in chairs arranged in a horseshoe shape.

In front of them are two young women; Zaynab Albadry, who is Muslim, and Roxana Jebreel, who is Jewish.

The workshop session they are conducting is highly interactive.

“Nine parts of people’s identity are protected by the 2010 Equality Act,” Ms Jebreel says, discussing the UK’s main legislation codifying anti-discrimination law.

“We’re going to ask you to form groups and try to work out what those nine aspects of identity might be.”

After a couple of minutes, students are encouraged to suggest answers. Some come easily — gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability. Others, such as age and gender reassignment, take a bit more time. The final two — pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnerships, are provided by the session convenors.

“Do people still face discrimination?” asks Ms Albadry. “Yes,” multiple students respond in unison, without hesitation.

The seminar is the brainchild of an organisation called Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination. It was launched in January 2017 as part of Streetwise, a partnership between the Community Security Trust and Maccabi GB which works to empower Jewish students in certain areas, including anti-bullying, personal safety — and antisemitism and discrimination.

Nathan Servi, the head of education at Maccabi GB, is manager of both the Streetwise and Stand Up! projects.

“In 2015 we had a review of all our work and decided that we really felt the need to export antisemitism education to mainstream schools”, he said.

“What we really wanted to do was to create an interfaith partnership. The obvious outlet for this was Tell Mama.”

Tell Mama, a national project which, as its acronym indicates, works on “Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks”, works closely with the CST.

“The idea was to have somebody from a Jewish background and someone from a Muslim background, together coming into a classroom of around 30, anything from 14- to 17-year-olds and discuss racism and discrimination, with a specific focus on Islam and Judaism, and therefore antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate.”

The programme has received funding both from the government and from private donors.

“Sometimes we’ll go to funders and they will ask us, ‘who else is doing this work, outside of the community?’” Mr Servi said.

“There are a number of projects and organisations that do similar type of work, but we have a number of USPs. First of all, having two young representatives of their faiths, of their communities, come in together is really powerful. The factuality of our programme as well is probably unique, because we use CST and Tell Mama resources, statistics and incidents.”

In the last two years, Stand Up! has run seminars for over 10,000 students in 55 schools around the UK, primarily in London, but also in cities including Manchester, Bristol and Liverpool.

“The sessions are usually an hour or two hours — either an hour where we then go back for a second part, or two hours straight,” Ms Albadry explained.

The sessions are from students between 13 and 18, with slight adaptations depending on age, “but the structure is almost always the same.

“We start by talking about discrimination as a whole, and the Equality Act. We frame it around the Equality Act because obviously not all students are Muslim or Jewish, and they need to understand that discrimination as a whole is unacceptable, and then we tell them that we will be focusing on one part.

“We actually talk about being abused based on different aspects of your identity and not just one type of identity, which we think is important also.”

Mr Servi stressed that “one thing we have been very careful in doing is represent our expertise, but also be very open about what is not our expertise.

“So with all the other protective characteristics, we’ve partnered with other national organisations that support those categories. For example, with LGBT advocacy and training, we’ve partnered with Galup and Keshet UK.”

The sessions then move on to discuss Islam and Judaism — via an interactive quiz, in which students are asked questions about both faiths.

“We break down the stereotypes for both communities,” said Ms Albadry.

“We hand out an A5 sheet, which asks, ‘What stereotypes do you know?’ In some schools they’ve never actually met a Jewish person and don’t Jewish students or anything, but they will always know the stereotypes, which is really interesting.

“Some of the things that come up include ‘rich’, ‘stingy’, ‘big families’ sometimes, ‘greedy’, ‘controlling the world’ — conspiracy theories come up quite a lot, from ‘controlling the media’ to ‘controlling the world’ — and when you ask them where they’ve heard this they say ‘oh, we’ve just heard it on YouTube or something like that.’

“With the Muslim community it will be things like ‘terrorism’, ‘sexism’ comes up quite a lot, ‘dress rules’, specifically for women, do come up.

So we try to break these down. We talk about both communities — where the hatred and discrimination started from, historical tropes — and then we move on to talk about what’s happening today. We’ll talk about terrorism and immigration with the Muslim community, with the Jewish community we talk about where the idea of being money-hungry, of being stingy, comes from.

“In the second part we move on to talk about reporting and the importance of reporting. So we take them through a range of incidents, whether it’s happening on the bus, or online — because they usually think that the online space is separate.

“We show them statistics from CST and Tell Mama, and we ask, ‘Have you experienced anything?’ In almost every class, a student will put up their hands — if not most of them — and they’ve faced discrimination at a very young age — sometimes they’re opening up for the first time, because we’re trying to create that safe space.

“But then when you ask them whether they’ve experienced anything online, more hands go up, because they haven’t considered it as an incident or an act of discrimination.

“Then we focus on reporting. We give out cards at the end, with the numbers of different organisations to report incidents to.”

Sitting in on a couple of sessions at local schools in London, pupils’ engagement with the subject matter was clear to see, whether Jewish, Muslim or otherwise. By the second session, even students who were clearly less confident had started to make their voices heard.

In one session, pupils were told what to do if there’s an incident of discrimination happening on a public bus: you can alert the driver and they should have recordings of the incident via multiple cameras, and be able to contact the police directly via a specially installed panic button.

However, not all sessions were as straightforward.

“We had a kid who told Zaynab, ‘I hate all Muslims, but you’re a really nice one”, Mr Servi recalled.

“We’ve had times where a student has said to us, ‘We just want the UK to be for white normal English people’, and we’ve turned round to him and said, ‘What’s normal? Do you not think we’re normal?’” Ms Albadry said.

“We don’t actually shut them down completely — we’ll just keep asking them questions. Sometimes the students around them will be agitated and want to respond to them, so we give them the chance to do so as well.

“And eventually they realise that the statement being made was not right. When we break it down, they tend to realise it themselves and just start absorbing. Or they realise that their ideas are being challenged and they need to go and do their research further.

“We’ve had times when students — I’ve showed them an example of something that’s being shared online, like a picture saying, ‘Keep calm and kill all Muslims’ — and a student said to me, ‘Actually that’s dark humour, that’s fine’. And other students turned around to them and said: ‘What if someone said kill all your group of people’ — and everyone started thinking about it, and then they realised it wasn’t right. So usually the response comes from students within the classroom.”

Mr Servi concurs.

“There’re a number of challenges. You sometimes get left-wing challenges, sometimes right-wing challenges At times we go into Muslim schools or schools with a high percentage of Muslim students, and we hear a lot of anti-Jewish conspiracies, from 9/11 to all the stuff that we adults know about.

“But up until about a year ago there was a huge amount of conversation about UJS and students on campus, and antisemitism on campus specifically. And I said that antisemitism doesn’t start on campus, it doesn’t start at Fresher’s week.

“And the same goes for anti-Muslim hate, and the same for any other type of discrimination. Without having a serious intervention, and a serious programme that tackles these issues early on, then we can’t expect for it not to pop up at university.”

Stand Up! has a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline. The organisation has been working on video to “introduce Judaism and Islam to young people.

“It has two rabbis and two Muslim leaders, one male, one female [of each]. From the Jewish perspective there’s an Orthodox and Progressive rabbi; from the Muslim perspective, there’s a very well known imam and a female faith leader.”

But above all, they’re hoping to expand the programme further afield.

“In terms of reach we’ve exceeded our expectations and been in many more schools than we thought we would be,” Mr Servi says.

The opportunities for expansion are “almost limitless. There are 3,400 secondary schools in the country”.

Mr Servi expressed his thanks to MHCLG and Betty Messenger Charitable Foundation, which have funded Stand Up! until now and will do for the next three years.

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