Throughout high school, I had the privilege of volunteering with Holocaust survivors through the UJA Witness Project, bearing witness to their unimaginable suffering. I was constantly reminded of the imperative phrase “Never Forget.”
It’s a phrase that for most of my life, served as a solemn reminder of the atrocities of the past.
But in recent times, it has taken on a new dimension for me, challenging my understanding of my heritage and my role as a journalism student.
My family’s roots run deep in the United States. My ancestors arrived before the turn of the last century and others arrived fleeing the terror of the Nazi regime – all with not much more than the clothes on their backs.
They worked hard and made significant contributions to this great country. My family served the United States in every war since World War II. My brother is currently a sergeant in the US Army. I am a proud fifth-generation Jewish American.
This summer, I spent two months living and working in Israel with ISRAEL21c through the Onward program. I had the opportunity to learn and write stories that showcased Israel’s innovation, resilience, and positive impact on the world. I explored Israel’s culture, history and people.
I discovered a connection to my roots and the ancient land that I had never felt before.
And then, October 7
And then, on October 7, the news of war between Israel and Hamas shook me to my core. As I watched the images of destruction and heard about the casualties, I felt a profound sense of heartbreak and helplessness.
The land I came to love, where I made friends and memories, became a war zone full of blood, violence and tears.
Now, a month later, from my college dorm room I watch videos and photos of rampant antisemitism spreading from college students and college campuses around the United States.
These are my peers. Fellow students and learners of the world. How can people have so much hatred inside of them? The familiar phrase “Never Forget” reverberates through my mind.
What is the real story?
My emotions are raw, and as an aspiring journalist, I face an immense challenge in reporting on this deeply personal and emotionally charged issue.
The age of social media has ushered in a deluge of fake news and biased reporting, making it increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction.
I have been taught the importance of fact-checking, verifying sources, and maintaining objectivity. However, the sheer speed at which information and disinformation have spread across the Internet has presented me with an unprecedented challenge.
Sitting in my classes, I find that many of my fellow students are often very uneducated about current issues. Most say that the most challenging thing they are going through is picking a side and choosing what graphic they should post on their social-media pages, rather than understanding the complexity of the situation.
It is disheartening to say that this may be our newfound reality, one that illustrates the power and danger of the digital age, where information is shared at lightning speed, and the lines between truth and falsehood are blurred.
Real challenges: facts and emotions
How do students navigate through a sea of contradictory narratives and decide what sources are reliable?
How can I share with my classmates a true and accurate depiction of the crisis?
My challenge is to separate my own personal, emotionally charged reactions: How can I, as a Jewish American with a deep connection to Israel and my heritage, remain objective?
The pain I feel for the Israeli people and the land that I have come to love is profound. I am grappling with an internal conflict of advocating for peace all while upholding my journalistic and academic duty to provide an unbiased perspective.
Journalism demands objectivity and humanity
Through this crisis, I have come to understand that objectivity does not mean stifling my emotions. I have to acknowledge them and try to make sure they don’t distort the accuracy of my reporting.
Throughout class discussions, I have had to engage with different perspectives on the conflict than my own and listen and learn from my peers.
This has not been easy; however, I have realized that to present the truth, even in the midst of my emotional turmoil, is the essence of responsible journalism.
“Never Forget” is not just a call to remember the past; it is a call to be informed, engaged and compassionate in the present.
It reminds us of our duty to bear witness to history and find and report what is real as we see it through the lens of responsible journalism.