Panelists from left: Jeremy Bannett, assistant regional director of the Anti-Defamation League; Miriam Steinberg-Egeth, director of the Center City Kehillah; Seth Kaufer, Republican ward leader; Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum; and moderator Brett Goldman.
After the election results were announced, a lot of people were left feeling a little lost — particularly, perhaps, the millennial generation.
So when Danielle Selber started receiving tons of messages from those in that under-40 age range, she wanted to help.
"My organization just got a total influx of people reaching out to us after the election, mostly people who were upset, and we decided that we wanted to respond to that need in some way," said Selber, assistant director of Tribe 12. "We probably heard from over 100 people — young millennials who were looking for ways to engage with this election and figure out what it means specifically for our community."
She got to work organizing events in the wake of the election that would benefit those looking for answers.
A few events Tribe 12 held in the past two weeks included a speed dating event for those feeling "eh" about the election, which Selber, who also serves as Tribe 12's in-house matchmaker, said sold out in 24 hours, and a panel discussion, "Young, Jewish and American: What Trump's Presidency Means For Us" on Nov. 21.
The panel brought together Jewish community leaders (also under 40) to talk about everything that's happened since Nov. 9 — including the transition period, immigration, foreign policy, the Iran deal, language and rhetoric, and U.S.-Israel relations.
The panel featured Jeremy Bannett, assistant regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Miriam Steinberg-Egeth, director of the Center City Kehillah; Seth Kaufer, Republican ward leader; and Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum.
Moderated by lobbyist Brett Goldman, the panel was somewhat skewed to the right, which was intentional, Selber said. "It was important to have those voices be represented so that we weren't in an echo chamber, and we weren't just talking to a bunch of people who agree with us," Selber said.
For the panel members, the evening presented a way to have a meaningful conversation and remind those in attendance that the Jewish community is there for them.
Steinberg-Egeth received calls and messages from a range of people she knew from previous work she's done with the Jewish Graduate Student Network and parenting groups she works with, all of whom were seeking advice.
"I hope that people walk away with a sense that they are not alone, and that is the most important thing," she said before the panel began. "To know that other people are grappling with the same issues, that other people are here to listen, that other people can talk about really difficult issues respectfully and that the Jewish community is here to be a support system in whatever way that looks like for them."
The side room at Field House was packed with young professionals looking for answers and solace.
"I really wanted to come and hear what other people had to say because I'm definitely feeling the weight of this election aftermath," said Melanie Highbloom, 25, who graduated from Penn in May with a master's degree in social work.
As a Hillary Clinton supporter, Highbloom was disappointed by the election and came to the panel discussion to hear the other side. "I'm hoping to learn the best way to move forward with so many questions and confusion," she said, adding that the language used throughout the election season was concerning. "I'm interested to see what other people feel about this and how they want to move forward as well."
The panel discussion and lively Q&A session afterward kept the audience's attention, if not riling them up during a few particularly heated moments.
Roman stressed that the Trump administration's appointments and policies should be taken "issue by issue."
When talking about President-elect Trump's plans for his first 100 days in office and the Cabinet positions he has filled thus far, for instance, more than a few audience members challenged the panel.
Trump's appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist ruffled a few feathers. While Roman noted he's "no fan of Steve Bannon," he also pointed to some positive moments in Bannon's career, and stressed that Bannon's actions, as well as other appointments (such as Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as Roman discussed later on) should be taken "issue by issue."
"When you look at Bannon as a whole, he's a very complicated individual," he acknowledged, noting that misogynistic Breitbart headlines — "There's No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews," for example — may not align with Bannon's personal beliefs.
In regard to both Bannon and Sessions, Roman encouraged the audience to do extra research before forming opinions.
Bannett upheld the positions the ADL has taken thus far: not calling Bannon himself an anti-Semite but noting that Breitbart has, under his leadership, served as an outlet for bigotry.
In response to the idea that Bannon is pro-Israel and not anti-Semitic, Kaufer noted that Breitbart is one of the most pro-Israel sites he reads.
Steinberg-Egeth added that "being pro-Israel doesn't necessarily mean that someone is pro-Jewish values," to loud applause.
However, amid the counterpoints and heated moments, one message became clear: Get involved.
As Bannett pointed out in talking about the rise of hate crimes and incidents that have been reported to the ADL, "everybody has a role in that," he said. "If you see something, say something."
Steinberg-Egeth pointed to the Jewish organizations that have begun to change in the wake of the results, releasing statements about political matters in ways they would not have done previously.
"Figure out who the people are whose values align with yours, and reach out to them," Steinberg-Egeth said.
After the discussion was over, attendees reflected on what they'd heard before they headed out in the brisk night, particularly regarding the push to get involved and have their voices heard.
"I have had many of these conversations in a more personal setting, and I thought that it was very interesting to have a more formal conversation that had some Jewish leaders speaking on this issue," said Mara Swift, a Temple University senior. "It was good to have a spectrum of speakers, but I was definitely surprised by some of the things that were said."
For her, some of the bigger issues of the election that were brought up that surprised her was the idea of turning away Syrian refugees. "It's painful to see any Jewish person look at that in any sort of positive light," she said.
Swift, 21, hopes this discussion jumpstarts a greater conversation among her peers.
"There was a big push towards getting more involved and making sure that your voice is heard," she said, "and as, I believe, the youngest person in the room, I think that it's important that my age group starts to show up — and not just in protest forms, but in these kind of dialogue forms."
Goldman had perhaps the toughest job of the night as moderator, but the evening played out as he expected. He commended the panelists for their participation — especially because hearing different viewpoints brought a lot of people out of their comfort zone, he said.
"This stuff is new and terrifying and we — the people in this room — need to be equipped to have more discussions and more conversations," he said. "But being equipped to do that, we've got to actually do something."
He hopes that hearing what Roman had to say about foreign policy and Bannett talk about what the ADL has been working on inspires people to get involved.
"People are having a dialogue about things that matter to them," he said, "and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and for weeks to come, they're going to start to think about, 'How can I do something else? What am I doing next?' Because if we don't, then who will?"
Related Topics: Antisemitism, Israel & Zionism, US politics
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list