How a Snohomish Young Adult Turned the Pain of Anti-Semitism into Education
Lyric Crane's isolating experiences led her to become a passionate educator about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. A guest essay.
Recently I saw a sign in front of a store in Seattle that read “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” In an era where victimhood seems to have increasing currency, I was surprised to see a message of resilience.
Lyric Crane, an Everett-based young woman, embodies this message. She took the pain of anti-Semitism throughout her childhood and turned it into fuel for her journey as an educator. Crane, a graduate of Western Washington University, was selected for the Masa Global Leadership Summit earlier this year and is now teaching English to children in Jerusalem.
Something else struck me about this essay: the loneliness of growing up without a strong Jewish community. I spent a lot of time thinking about this earlier this week, on Purim. Members of our community walked around the neighborhood exchanging treats, filled synagogues and living rooms to hear the Megillah, raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity in a single day, and ate and drank and laughed with friends. It made me appreciate the built-in safety net Judaism not only provides but actually mandates.
Purim, of course, is also the celebration of a woman’s heroism in the face of genocide and an upside-down world. It’s a good reminder of the power we all hold, no matter how small we are. It’s a reminder to join a community, because we can’t do it alone. And it’s a call to embrace our pain and keep burning it as fuel.
“A Passion I Can’t Quite Explain”
By Lyric Crane
I grew up in Snohomish, Washington, which was both terrifying and isolating.
My family was one of very few Jewish families, which left me without any community to lean on for support. I did not have access to a synagogue or Jewish community center. I experienced a continuous stream of anti-Semitism from elementary school until I left for college. These ranged from inappropriate Holocaust comparisons to slurs to threats of physical violence.
Fighting anti-Semitism became an important part of my life because I felt that if I didn’t do it, no one would. There were no specific leadership roles that I could fill to fight anti-Semitism within my school system, so I made my own. I created a club called International Diversity Club, which aimed to provide a safe space for students of diverse backgrounds. I became committed to being open and proud of my Jewish identity, never missing an opportunity to talk about it or educate others.
While the response to International Diversity Club was positive, the response to being openly Jewish was not. For a while, I tried to match every anti-Semitic action with a positive display of Judaism, however, the anti-Semitic instances began to happen with more frequency and intensity. When it became clear that my high school was no longer safe for me, I started taking my classes at my local community college to escape it.
I began studying Holocaust education when I was in elementary school, both as a way to fulfill my responsibility to remember the Shoah and as a way to make sense of anti-Semitism around me. When I entered college, I enrolled in the Holocaust and genocide studies minor to further my understanding of the Holocaust. My coursework in this minor taught me about the alarming rates of Holocaust distortion on social media and the disturbing lack of mandated Holocaust education in most states.
This information filled me with a passion that I can’t quite explain, a calling made up of personal responsibility and communal advocacy. I truly believe that the way to decrease anti-Semitism is through Holocaust education. There is a clear need for Holocaust educators to study the past and to prevent such atrocities from happening again, and I want to dedicate my life to fulfilling that need.
I attended Western Washington University, where I earned a B.S. in psychology, a minor in Holocaust and genocide studies, and a minor in interdisciplinary honors. During college, I served as president of the Hillel student board. As Hillel president, I was responsible for advocating for our members, creating programming that would enrich members spiritually and culturally, and educating non-Jews about Jewish life. I also hosted events in response to rising trends of anti-Semitism, including healing spaces and open student forums. My biggest project was getting Hillel into the Ethnic Student Center, which took nearly two years and countless hours of writing, meetings, and presentations.
I also served as a “Jewish on Campus” student ambassador. As an ambassador, I worked within a school legislative body to pass resolutions that targeted on-campus anti-Semitism. I worked with a team to pass a resolution called “Antisemitism Training for Faculty at Western Washington University” based on the resolution “Antisemitism Training for Faculty on Campus,” written by Kyla Fonger. This resolution aimed to create training that would represent the needs of the Bellingham Jewish community by working with Jewish student organizations and the Holocaust studies institute on campus. This training would include webinars, discussion groups, online courses, and in-person lectures. These offerings would teach both contemporary anti-Semitism and basic information about the Holocaust, so that faculty could have a complete understanding of the anti-Semitism that students face. While my resolution passed through Jewish on Campus, I was unable to implement it at my university before I graduated. It is my hope that future Jewish on Campus Student Ambassadors will implement it and use it as a tool to make change on campus.
Because of my experiences with Hillel and Jewish on Campus, I decided to apply for the Masa leadership summit. The leadership summit provided me with multiple platforms to talk about Holocaust education, including a panel with the president of Israel, a radio interview, and a podcast interview. These opportunities allowed me to stress the importance of Holocaust education to those who might not know it, creating awareness and allies.
Currently, I am part of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program where I teach English in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem. Working with Jewish children pushes me to continue advocating for Holocaust education, because I want to prevent them from experiencing extreme anti-Semitism or bigotry. They are a daily reminder of the reason that I am fighting against anti-Semitism: to honor the victims of the Holocaust by ensuring that it never happens again.
The leadership summit experience was incredibly meaningful to me because it made me feel like I had finally escaped the isolation of my upbringing and become the advocate that I needed when I was younger. Growing up in Snohomish, I did not have anyone to advocate for me against the anti-Semitism that I experienced. I want to do everything that I can to ensure that Jewish children do not experience what I did.
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Shoutout to Kavana's education director Rachel "RLO" Osias for a fabulous kids Purim party. When my little not-yet-two Lena wandered to the front of the room amongst the bigger kids, RLO scooped her up and kept bopping along to "La Kova Shelie Shalosh Pinot." We went home all smiles. —Greg Scruggs
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A very moving essay. Well done, Lyric. We're proud of you. Would be interesting to read some thoughts from her sibs and parents.
This is not the only time I have learned about a Jewish student leaving a high school environment and enrolling in community college to get away from hateful conduct.