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With the Holocaust As Backdrop, Students Learn to Fight Prejudice In Their Own Lives

New York, NY, December 1, 2009 … A diverse group of teenagers is ready to alter the playing field of discrimination after spending four days in Washington, D.C. tackling issues of racism and prejudice on a mission sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

As delegates to the 12th annual ADL Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission, nearly 100 high school students explored modern and historic examples of bigotry and genocide, and shared personal experiences with hatred and discrimination.  The program strives to motivate students to become positive ambassadors for change in their schools and communities.

Selected for their leadership qualities and demonstrated interest in issues of diversity, the students hailed from Albany, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C.

The delegates heard from Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans, Darfur activists, diplomats and community leaders, learning about the extremes that can result from unchecked hatred.  The centerpiece of the mission was time spent at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where students learned about the persecution and atrocities of WWII, and delved into contemporary issues of extremism, bigotry and genocide. 

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, shared his personal story of being saved from the Nazis by his Polish Catholic nanny, and reiterated the underlying message of the program.

"This mission is all about one single and simple message: each individual has the ability to make a difference," Mr. Foxman said in an address to the students.  "When you go back to your community and schools and social groups, if you hear an ethnic joke, derogatory name or an insensitive comment, show that you have the strength to stand up and say 'no.'  It isn't always easy, but we must do our utmost.  Tolerance is not enough, we must strive for mutual respect."

Presentations from a concentration camp survivor and liberator enabled students to hear first-hand accounts of the historical events they studied.

"Yelling 'never again' is not enough -- it is your job to act when you see a wrong," concentration camp survivor Nesse Godin told the group.  "We must never allow an atrocity like [the Holocaust] to befall any other people."

Dr. Leon Bass, a retired high school principal and U.S. army veteran who helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp, urged the students to "learn to stand up to the evil, teach others by the way you carry yourselves, and live your lives in such a way that you affect others."

Other presenters included Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan's Ambassador to the United States, Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Susan Burgess-Lent of the Darfur Peace and Development Organization.

During breakout sessions conducted by ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute facilitators, students shared personal experiences with hatred, and talked about how the lessons of the Holocaust can help make a difference in today's world.

Delegates attended the 15th Annual ADL In Concert Against Hate at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra, where they heard four stories about heroes that documented or were the victims of hate crimes and terrorism.

Founded in 1996 by ADL's Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Regional Office, the Youth Leadership Mission became a national program in 1998, building on the success of previous programs in preparing students as role models against bigotry, prejudice and hate.  It is generously sponsored by The Grosfeld Family Foundation.

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The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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