Education Minnesota’s Jewish Affinity Space Leads Antisemitism Training for Educators

Education Minnesota represents educators across 472 local unions and acts as the state’s leading advocate for public education. Within it exists the Jewish Affinity Space, a subgroup that allows a safe place for Jewish educators to share experiences, celebrate Jewish culture, and brainstorm ways to counter antisemitism in schools. 

Morgan Cronin, a classroom math teacher, and Melissa Del Rosario, a former classroom teacher and founder of the Jewish Affinity space, are two members taking action through an initiative to educate teachers about Jewish culture and the dangers of antisemitism in schools.

Del Rosario is passionate about inclusion in schools. “Our focus is on making sure every teacher has the tools they need to address not only antisemitism but all forms of discrimination,” Del Rosario said.

“We started this when concerns about antisemitism were just emerging again. It was crucial to create an affinity space where we could address these issues directly through education,” Cronin said. 

In response to growing concerns, Cronin understood that education regarding Jewish culture and combating antisemitism was imperative, and set out to create a curriculum to deliver in schools.

“I started getting more involved with another teacher in Edina, and we spent about a year and a half writing a curriculum for teachers: What does it mean to be Jewish? What are some common Jewish holidays? What are some core Jewish beliefs? How does antisemitism show up, and what do you do about it when it happens in your classroom?” said Cronin.

With education as the main objective, the curriculum works to achieve a more inclusive environment in schools for Jewish students.

The professional development sessions have taken place in districts across the metro including Minnetonka, St. Paul, and Edina: “We’ve trained about 25 teachers who are now equipped to spread this knowledge further. It’s about empowering educators to advocate for empathy and understanding in their classrooms,” Cronin said.

Although initially nervous about potential responses to the curriculum, Cronin said, “The response has been really positive…It’s been a really good way to open up the conversation.”

“I had an amazing learning experience at the Recognizing and Combating Anti-Semitism training,” said educator Mary Callahan. “As an educator, it is pertinent to understand the current challenges facing the Jewish community and learn tools to help interrupt and combat this culture of hate both in schools and all around us.”

Beth Ahlgren, another educator who has completed the training, said: “This training has shed light on pathways to address pressing challenges like antisemitism. It highlights the crucial need for educator training, empowering them with the knowledge and tools to address undertones of discrimination that may have otherwise been overlooked.”

Cronin further explained the practical impact of the training: “Our aim is to make discussing these issues less awkward and more proactive. When something inappropriate is said in class, teachers now have the tools to handle it effectively, without shaming the student, while fostering an understanding of why it’s hurtful,” she said.

Looking forward, both Cronin and Del Rosario are committed to expanding the reach of the program.

“I think there needs to be more education, honestly, for high school students, for middle school students, not even just about Judaism, but about different groups of people,” Cronin said.