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Teen aims to debunk misinformation, fight anti-Semitism.

By: Ezra Solway | Jewish Community Voice | October 13, 2022

Ella Alfassy Age: 17 Family: Mother Tali Alfassy; Stepfather Bryan Grossman; Sister Eden Hometown: Marlton High School: Cherokee High School Favorite Travel Destination: South Africa

Ella Alfassy wants to set the record straight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Many people are misinformed about Israel,” said Alfassy, a Marlton local with Israeli roots, who visits her father and grandparents in Ashdod, Herzliya, and Ramat Gan every summer. “They often blindly believe false information whether they hear it on the media or from peers.”

To better educate herself on the nuances of the conflict, she joined the Teen Leadership Council through StandWithUs, an Israel educational organization. This year she was admitted to the SWU Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship, their competitive year-long flagship leadership program for high school students. It consists of monthly Zoom seminars, mentorship meetings that focus on leadership skills, and strategies to combat rising anti-Semitism.

Now a senior at Cherokee High School, Alfassy doesn’t forget the feeling of being victim to an anti-Semitic outburst as a freshman at a school football game. As the game neared its end, she was talking to her mother over the phone in Hebrew, asking to be picked up. Then another student she’d never met before suddenly interrupted her phone call, making vitriolic rants against Israel and its government.

“I was completely helpless to even know what to say back. I was just in shock. It really affected me. I found myself being unable to stand up for myself and Israel. It just powered my passion to combat such instances.”

Another anti-Semitic incident that rubbed Alfassy the wrong way happened last year when two swastikas were discovered in the boys bathroom at nearby Marlton Middle School. Knowing that these students could be walking down the same hallway in a year or two from now doesn’t square well with her. “Some people aren’t even educated on the fact that it’s wrong. And I think that’s the main issue.”

Alfassy credits SWU for not only furthering her Israel education, but also with teaching her how to maintain her composure in the thick of an emotional argument. Recently, she’s been applying her leadership skills by brainstorming with her class advisors and principals to arrange an educational Israel seminar in school that would address the roots of misinformation.

Outside of her internship, Alfassy is involved with her local chapter of the Chabad Teen Network, (CTeen) a social network for Jewish teens of all backgrounds. She hopes to help expand the chapter. She also volunteers every week at Cong. Beth El as a Sunday school teacher’s assistant to sixth graders. She likes to practice speaking German, her grandfather’s native language, and currently serves as president of her school’s German Club. On weekends, she works at Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford. She belongs to a local yoga studio. In college, she plans to study neuroscience.

If she encounters anti-Semitism on college campus next year, Alfassy said she’s confident that she’ll be ready to face it head on. “This internship builds so much confidence within ourselves that we’re going to feel confident enough in our ability to stand against anti-Semitism on our own,” she said. “We can make a change in our communities.”

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