The Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism gathered more than 200 educators, administrators, parents and other community leaders Wednesday, Nov. 8, to respond to signs of increasing bullying and other anti-Jewish actions in public and private schools in the metro area.

The TASK (Tackling Anti-Semitism for Our Kids) conference at Temple Emanu-El, modeled on the initial AIAAS conference held in March, brought people together for expert presentations and table discussions about expressions of hate seen in the past year in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.

Participants had direct access to over 20 organizations and educational materials as resources to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. The Anti-Defamation League has reported a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents in schools nationally and in the Southeast in 2016 and 2017.

“AIAAS is thrilled to have successfully brought together hundreds of education leaders tasked with shaping the hearts and minds of the metro area’s children at our conference to raise the bar on improving intervention and responsive measures as well as proactive methods to prevent anti-Semitism and all forms of hate in K-12 schools,” AIAAS founding partner Danielle Cohen said.

Attendees received a five-year interfaith calendar that included a range of holidays with descriptions of how they affect each faith. Those calendars will be given to as many schools as possible in the metro area, regardless of whether they attended the conference.

AIAAS also provided participants “A Pledge to Tackle Anti-Semitism and Hate” to foster change in their communities. The organization plans to follow up with people who filled out those forms to track the effects and progress.

Cohen said AIAAS also will:

  • Comb through the notes from the table discussions to learn what education leaders feel can be done to prevent anti-Semitism and hate, as well as respond to incidents.
  • Respond to follow-up inquiries and requests from conference participants and sponsors, many of whom would like to collaborate further.
  • Regroup with the hundreds of AIAAS volunteers to determine next steps.
  • Work with ADL and others to advocate hate-crime legislation in Georgia, one of five states without such a law.

Allison Padilla-Goodman presents opening remarks during the TASK conference.

“I hope educators and administrators left the conference having an expedited need to create a culture of inclusivity within their schools and being proactive about it,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, the ADL’s Southeast regional director, who delivered the TASK conference’s opening remarks. “This involves more than just saying, ‘I’m going to welcome all students to my school,’ but establishing an environment which students can interact and learn from one another.”