Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
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The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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From educator to activist

Former CESJDS Jewish History teacher and chair Aaron Bregman has always felt passionate about preparing students to confidently engage in civil discourse about complex topics like Jewish identity, antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. But now, instead of reaching 100 students a year, he’s able to reach close to 2,000 through his work.

Once a month, over 1,900 Jewish high school students meet around the United States to discuss their experiences with antisemitism, learn how to respond to antisemitism and how they can embrace their Jewish identities. This program is called Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT), created by the High School Affairs department at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Bregman is the director of the department.

“When students end the program, they have the ability to walk into a class, walk into a professor’s office, walk into whatever, you name it and say confidently, ‘Here’s what I believe. I’d love to have a conversation about X, Y or Z and actually engage in civil discourse,’” Bregman said.

After a decade of working at JDS, Bregman left after the 2021-22 school year to work at the AJC. The goal of the AJC is to shape a brighter future for Jewish teens by discussing with leaders on the highest levels of government and society about combating antisemitism, talking to the world about Israel and democratic values.

Bregman’s role as the High School Affairs department director is to help students that have questions about the AJC and what the organization can teach them about combating antisemitism, along with sending out a representative from the AJC to speak with students across the country.

Last summer, Bregman gathered 10 heads of private independent schools from across the country and traveled to Israel to talk about the issues that Israel is facing today. He focused on explaining the diversity of Israel and the history and current events of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“They can go back to their schools, work with their educators, work with their Jewish student body, so they have a better sense of what’s happening on the ground [in Israel], and so they can actually have some investment in that conversation,” Bregman said.

Bregman’s leadership in the JDS community is still seen by teachers and alumni today, including alumnus Micah Gritz (‘20), who is currently a senior at Tufts University. Gritz is the Chief Operating Officer at Jewish On Campus, an organization focusing on bringing awareness to antisemitism on college campuses.

Gritz said Bregman was a very “passionate and enthusiastic” teacher, and he stated how he was very relatable in sharing his experiences as a high school and college student. Gritz credits his interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict to Bregman and his teaching style.

“I feel like he really ignited a passion within me for international relations, and specifically, the conflicts in the Middle East,” Gritz said. “I think it’s safe to say he changed my life.”

The current chair of the Jewish History Department, Dan Rosenthal, said that he and Bregman worked together closely for seven years, in which they worked on teaching about Israel’s history and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for him to be able to take his knowledge and share it with a wider audience that’s not just within Maryland, but across the entire country,” Rosenthal said.

Bregman says he misses his colleagues and how he could engage with many high school students every day. Especially since Oct. 7, Bregman misses the strong community that JDS brought.

“As someone who’s a local, I always appreciated the warmness and comfort the JDS community provided me and I always will remember that,” Bregman said.

Since antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment has increased exponentially over the past few months, he advises students to speak up for their beliefs.

“[What] I would particularly tell JDS students is: Be confident and don’t be afraid to speak out when you hear such rhetoric,” Bregman said. “I have 120% faith in our Jewish history department. They are giving our students those tools and those materials to understand that background. Then, where the students need to step up is in the non JDS spaces, when they hear rhetoric like that to say proudly loudly, that is antisemitism.”

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