Wearing a Kippah with Pride

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Amidst the 500 people in attendance at the Anti-Defamation League Entertainment Industry Dinner this year, one young man wearing a kippah stood out from the crowd of donors and celebrities: YULA Boys Junior Jordan Lustman. But Jordan wasn’t just there to mingle with the industry bigwigs. Jordan had been handpicked by the ADL to address the dinner participants in a speech that described his experiences facing anti-Semitism.

The ADL National Youth Leadership Mission in Washington, DC, is a national conference that brings together 140 students from across the country each year. They share experiences and learn tools to fight bias and bigotry in their schools. Jordan had heard about the amazing work that the ADL does in defending Jews and other minorities around the world and was intrigued. Along with other teens from the US, most of whom were not Jewish, Jordan decided to attend the ADL workshop in November 2013. Over the course of four days, students participated in workshops on how to combat bias and prejudice and they shared their personal stories and experiences.

Wearing a Kippah (1)

“It was fascinating to meet with other students outside of my usual bubble,” said Jordan. “One of the most eye-opening experiences was my interaction with students who had never met a Jewish person before.” Throughout the program, Jordan identified as the only participant with a kippah on his head. “I wore my kippah with pride,” said Jordan. “Walking through the Holocaust Museum, people assumed that I knew a lot about the Holocaust and Judaism. I felt like I really had something to teach and share, because of my personal experiences and unfortunate run-ins with anti-Semitism.”

After the trip, Jordan was approached to speak at the ADL’s annual Entertainment Industry Dinner. Not only did Jordan have the chance to meet powerful people in the entertainment and non-profit world, he also had the chance to address them in his speech, “The Jews Killed Jesus” where Jordan’s impactful opening words grabbed the audience’s attention. The night was a great success and the dinner raised 1 million dollars for the ADL. You can read a full summary of the evening here. (http://la.adl.org/news/anti-defamation-league-entertainment-industry-dinner-honors-roma-downey-and-mark-burnett/)

Through his involvement with the ADL, Jordan went on to participate in a project at the USC Shoah labs, watching testimonies of survivors. When looking for a student to grace the cover of the Shoah Magazine alongside Steven Spielberg, the ADL recommended Jordan because of his involvement and passion for the organization. Jordan enthused that, “Meeting Steven Spielberg was a great experience. It was very powerful to meet the person who is responsible for creating this heroic work of Holocaust remembrance and for recording testimonials that will live on forever, even when the survivors of the Shoah are no longer here to tell their stories”.

Over the course of his time at YULA, Jordan has taken an increasingly active leadership role. “Before attending YULA, I wasn’t as involved with communal affairs. I’ve branched out, and have become involved with several school activities, including the Israel Advocacy club. YULA has given me the opportunity to be an activist with a voice and has taught me how to use my voice effectively in order to be heard.”

What is at the root of this 11th grader’s impactful work? Jordan is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and acknowledges, “Israel is my home and the driving force in the work I do.” After he finishes YULA and graduates, Jordan is hoping to go to Israel to learn in a yeshiva and to one day join the Israeli Defense Forces.