2020-21 Voices of Change Essay Series

community members activate advances in catlin gabel curriculum and culture

While diversity, equity, and inclusion work has been a growing priority for the school in recent years, community involvement has accelerated as well. Students, parents, teachers, staff, and alumni have stepped up and are helping drive our ongoing evolution by taking action. They’re forming affinity groups, partaking in conferences, initiating diversity-focused fundraising campaigns, collecting empirical data, and documenting their lived experiences. The following stories represent a small sampling of this involvement.

Leading by Example

Rachel Yoken ’21, co-leader of the Jewish Student Union (JSU)

I think it’s extremely important to keep fostering a group of students who are comfortable speaking about what they’re experiencing and talking about their beliefs. That’s what the Jewish Student Union does. It’s unique because it’s not only Jewish students, but anybody can come and hear what Jewish students are experiencing, and learn about different ways that we can combat anti-Semitism.

A huge part of the Jewish Student Union is to educate. Because there are not a lot of Jewish kids at Catlin, a lot of people don’t know about different Jewish High Holy Days, or just how important Israel is to the Jewish community, or the diversity of the Jewish population. A lot of people don’t realize that a huge percentage of People of Color are Jewish. It’s very complex and there’s a ton of misinformation.

I hope that I’ll inspire kids in the group to continue to talk about these things, to talk about Israeli culture and history, and Jewish history, and ways that we can continue to combat anti-Semitism, especially as it continues to rise. All of the co-leaders are seniors, so we’re trying our hardest to make sure that the JSU continues on after we graduate. I’ve been doing it this year, along with Benjamin Olshin and Sean Uan-Zo-li. We’re trying to lead by example.

My hope is that any student, Jewish or non-Jewish, will be willing to talk about their beliefs, and talk about all forms of discrimination—religious discrimination, racial discrimination, any type of discrimination. I hope they will not be afraid to express opinions and talk about their experiences.