Our community is filled with so many inspiring teen leaders, and Jenna Hecht is no exception. Jenna is a 9th grader at Grand Island High School and when she’s not at school, Jenna participates in dance and gymnastics. She is also a member of Peer Buddies, a group at Jenna’s school that pairs neurotypical student mentors with students with disabilities. Over the summer, Jenna participates in weekly baseball games with her peer buddy through the Miracle League of Western New York. Jenna helps her buddy run the bases, hit the ball, and all other aspects of the game that her buddy needs help with. Jenna has made so many friends from participating in peer buddies, and this experience has inspired her passion to help the neurodiverse community.
Jenna recently found herself in a difficult situation that many Jewish Teens have also faced recently. When scrolling through Instagram, she saw that a classmate had posted an inflammatory anti-Israel and antisemitic picture to her page, including a post that said, “The Jews are being horrible.” Unfortunately, posts like these have been a common occurrence on Instagram during the last month’s violence in Israel. Jenna was frustrated by the posts, as falsehoods were being spread about Jews, Israel and a situation that she knows is complex and nuanced.
Jenna decided to act. She sent a message to her classmate saying that the posts had been hurtful and untrue and suggested to her classmate that she should look into other sources besides Instagram to get information on the situation. The peer was shocked that the post was hurtful, and asked Jenna to point her towards truthful sources that could provide her with the correct facts about the situation.
When asked what advice she would give other Jewish Teens in the same situation, Jenna said, “Speak up about it, but do it in a gentle manner.” Jenna went on to say that it’s important to understand where the other person is coming from and why they are posting, but there is nothing wrong with approaching them to politely ask that they only post factual information.
Jenna is a role model for teens who have been faced with tough situations around Israel on social media, and her courage to speak up is an inspiration. Thank you, Jenna, for your leadership and courage!