In this 2022 file photo, participants read the Babi Yar Memorial while taking part in the 6 Million Steps 6 Million lives memorial walk in and around Babi Yar Memorial Park on April 24, 2022 in Denver. Around 100 people turned out for the event, in part organized by the Israeli American Council, or IAC, that was held to memorialize the Jewish lives lost in the holocaust. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

By AVRAHAM MINTZ | Guest Commentary
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2023 at 6:01 a.m. | UPDATED: June 23, 2023 at 6:03 a.m.


There’s nothing harder than having to tell a middle schooler they shouldn’t be ashamed to be Jewish. Last month, students in Cherry Creek School District drew swastikas on their arms and made antisemitic taunts to their Jewish classmates after watching a presentation about the Holocaust.

As a local rabbi, the difficult task of counseling these students and families fell on my colleagues’ and my shoulders. The school disciplined the offending students and is working to implement a training program educating people about antisemitism. These initiatives are a great first step, but what is lacking in the school’s response is any clear direction for the Jewish students who were targeted. What can be done to ensure the victims feel safe coming back to school and feel secure in their Jewish identity?

Although it may not be a daily occurrence here in Colorado, moments like these make us stop to think about what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

Recently, the Biden White House released a “National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism”. This document outlined plans to counter antisemitism through stricter anti-hate laws, increased security for Jewish communities across the U.S, and broader antisemitism awareness education.

These steps are important, even critical. However, while confronting antisemitism head-on is one way to counter potential future incidents, a parallel strategy that focuses on increasing resilience and Jewish pride is just as important.

This was the approach encouraged by the Rebbe – Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – who is often considered the most influential rabbi in modern history. His approach to hate was one of love and not combat. The Rebbe sent many young rabbinic couples around the world to establish community centers and spread Jewish teaching. Rather than perpetually engaging in battle with the enemy, we proudly spread the Jewish message — that each person has a mission to uplift the world and spread kindness. We aim to galvanize Jews to not be ashamed of who they are but to be proud of it.

This June 22, we commemorate the 29th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. One thing the Rebbe was known for was his insistence on each and every person actualizing their full G‑d given potential. He taught that each day we can carry out our unique mission through doing acts of kindness. Whether it’s visiting a sick friend, giving to charity, or taking care of a family member, each of us has the ability to improve the world, one action at a time.

The Rebbe often shared that the best way to combat negativity is through giving to others. Once, a woman recovering from cancer wrote to the Rebbe about the distress and overwhelm she felt from her medical condition. His characteristic response was “you have neighbors who need you. Make time every day to visit them and help them.” Rather than telling her to get over it or to focus on her suffering, he reminded her that she can use her unique talents to help those close to her.

In 2003, my wife and I moved to Colorado to serve the local Jewish community and establish the Chabad Jewish Center of South Metro Denver. Inspired by the Rebbe’s teachings, we constantly try to increase the ways we can serve the community, whether it’s through Friendship Circle Colorado, the Garden pre-school, Camp Gan Izzy, or our other programs. We do our best to share the message that each one of us has a vital role to play in spreading kindness.

Regarding antisemitism, our strength lies not in sparring with the dark and ugly forces that want to bring us down, but in illuminating the shadows with positive examples of love and kindness. Living as proud Jews is truly the strongest defense against intolerance. This applies to all marginalized groups.

With that inner fortitude, we can send our kids to school knowing who they are and what they stand for. Being a proud Jew isn’t just about how strongly one can stand up to hate; it’s about carrying out the mission of spreading light, helping one’s neighbor and making the world a better place.

Rabbi Avraham Mintz is the CEO of Friendship Circle Colorado and of Chabad Jewish Center of South Metro Denver.