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There is too much ignorance, bigotry and hate in the world, too little understanding and acceptance. It is easy to think that hatred and discrimination are only out there in the streets, in the demonstrations and violence and terror we see on the news every day. But the ignorance, meanness and discrimination surrounds all of us every day in small and large ways, quietly and loudly, no matter who we are. We are here, all of us, not to dominate each other, but to coexist - plain and simple.
This is Izzy's true story, one of the only Jewish girls in her town. She was never all that religious - her parents never forced her to go to Temple or Hebrew School - but she still believed in it, and liked being Jewish.
In elementary school, all the other kids started going to Church. For Izzy, there was nothing wrong with that, she believed that there was true freedom of religion, everyone could practice whatever religion they chose - BUT, the kids in her class didn't really see it that way.
Kids overhear what their parents say, and they actually do listen in Church. And some of what her friends and classmates seemed to take away from all of that influence and those overheard ideas was that if someone didn't worship the way they did, and pray to their God, that person was going to go to hell. The other problem is that kids don't just learn from what they hear grownups saying, they also imitate what they see and believe.
Kids started coming up to Izzy on the playground and telling her that Jews were trying to take over the world, that they were money hungry hogs who were going to hell, awful, terrible, and ignorant things. She was bullied. And Izzy knew that it was their parents that were saying these things because she knew these children didn't have that kind of hatred in their hearts. Hate was learned.
Izzy wasn't alone in all of this - all the muslim children were also singled out, bullied and discriminated against in mean terrible ways. Other kids told them they were terrorists, that they were connected with the people who were behind the 9/11 attacks on the world trade center.
Izzy was young, and it all made her feel awful. She would go home a cry by herself in her room because she thought she was going to go to hell because she didn't go to Church like all the other kids at her school. She even went to her parents and asked them to take her to a Church every Sunday before she even knew what it meant.
Izzy had always embraced her religion because she felt its goodness, that it brought people together with positive and loving messages, but now she wanted to go to Church out of pure fear, from being bullied, and through the pressure of ignorant and unaccepting people.
Her parents taught her acceptance, that people believe in different things and they all have that right to believe whatever their heart and heritage tells them. Izzy was taught that what people's religious beliefs are should matter only to them, that it is okay to have different beliefs and those beliefs cannot make someone a bad person. But what does make someone a bad person is telling other people what they can and cannot believe, who or how they worship,
Izzy doesn't hate - regardless of belief or religion - but she just wishes that someone would have told the kids in her town not to repeat the terrible and ignorant things they heard - anti-Semetic and Islamophobic filth.
Izzy remembers in middle school, when they were teaching about the middle east and told everyone in class that Jesus was Jewish. The kids were totally shocked. It made Izzy see how stupid everyone was being, hating and bullying each other because of religion.
In high school nobody really gave her any trouble - well, there was one girl who did - but Izzy ignored her.
Izzy learned and truly believes that anyone who judges you based on your religious beliefs is simply not worth your time. We are all free to believe what what we want.
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