Who The Folk?! Brandon Schorsch

What makes Brandon Schorsch’s job at Jewish Community Action so personal? Brandon is JCA’s new outreach and engagement manager, working on the organization’s campaign on combating anti-Semitism and white nationalism. We talk about his new role, the hate crimes bill in the Minnesota Legislature, and Indiana Jones, on this week’s Who The Folk?! podcast.

You can read an excerpt below, but for the whole interview (which you are really going to want to hear), please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. Check out the show page where you can catch up on previous episodes. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

What led to JCA wanting to hire a role specifically for this area of focus?

JCA has been doing this type of work for a long time, but kind of on the side. [Executive Director] Carin [Mrotz] and other members of JCA have done numerous trainings around the history of anti-Semitism and how it ties in with white nationalism. But recently JCA was awarded a grant and was able to go and expand these efforts and have a more long-term program built around this rather than just kind of something that, as Carin put it, she was doing during her lunch breaks. You know, of course, that’s assuming that she gets one.

So it’s been a couple of months as you’re getting into the job; what’s it been like? And as the first person in this role, are you building it from scratch?

So a large part of the curriculum comes from what Carin’s put together over the years. And Lauren Muscoplat at JCA is kind of in charge of the curriculum side of things. I’m there to go and work with nonprofits, activist groups, community groups, and kind of scope out who’s interested in learning more about this, who might be able to use these lessons. And so that that’s kind of like my role. I’m kind of facilitating those outside conversations and then we can get into a room together and have those much, much deeper conversations.

Where does the drive to take on this position come from? Especially a brand new position without a roadmap.

It goes without saying, for all of us within the Jewish community and who are within marginalized communities, or have loved ones who are in marginalized communities or who are at threat from things like white nationalism, this is something that we all hold really, really deeply. This type of ideology is quite terrifying. But for me, what really drives me is I had friends who I grew up with who became radicalized. Who I saw go from some of my best friends growing up these empathetic kids slowly become radicalized online, throughout high school and then post-high school; start posting neo-Nazi images start you know stockpiling guns. And I think that it’s really horrifying seeing that happen to people that you actually know. In the way that we consume media, the way that we see things on the news, the way we see things online, oftentimes, it’s easy to be like, ‘Oh, it’s just some troll behind a screen. These are just people who are just kind of off the rails.’ They’re maybe not that big of a threat but in reality, there are, you know, people who are being radicalized into this who, who otherwise were just everyday people. It’s really scary seeing it happen in essentially like slow motion. And that’s something I don’t want anybody else to have to see. And that’s really what drives me to kind of help raise awareness. So then we can all have a better language to be able to identify it and stop that recruitment mechanism as well.

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