How to Talk to Children About Antisemitism

Updated 7/17/2020

Let's face it, no one wants to have to tell their child that there are nasty people in the world who will try to hurt them just for being themselves. We raise our kids to be good people, mensches, to help and accept others, and to do the best they can to treat those around them fairly and with respect.

Research shows that one of the best ways that we can help prepare our children to cope with discrimination and intolerance is by being open about it. When we show our children that these topics, though tough, are not taboo, we let them know that they can always come to us with questions or thoughts about life's scary situations.

Part of growing up and getting older will mean that our kids come face to face with some of the ugliness of the world. Given recent events, like a rise in antisemitic acts and bias crimes, a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh as well as waves of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, we may have to have these conversations sooner than we'd like.

We've pulled together a short list of links and resources that parents may find helpful in discussions with their children. This can be used as a starting point along with our post, How to Talk to Your Kids About Scary Situations as well as Videos to Help Talk to Kids About Violence.

Related: After Terror: 5 Jewish Ways to Help Kids Deal via

Talking to Your Kids

Many sources recommend being direct with kids about difficult topics while also tuning in to gauge how much your kids can handle.

The American Psychological Association stresses that for children in groups that are likely to be targets of discrimination, it's vital for parents to have ongoing, honest, discussions with their children rather than shying away from the subject. The APA also recommends:

  • Let the discussion be ongoing.

  • Keep talking. Yes, even--and especially--when it gets hard.

    • It's also ok to say "I don't know."

  • Be age appropriate. Keep things basic. Young children especially need simple information balanced with reassurance.

  • Encourage your children to ask questions.

  • Help kids learn how to deal with being the potential target of discrimination.

  • Develop healthy comebacks or responses to hurtful discriminatory statements. For example: “What an unkind thing to say.” “Excuse me? Could you repeat that?” “I disagree with you, and here’s why…”

  • If you catch your child using insensitive language, use the moment as a teaching example.

  • Model good behavior for your child.


Resource Round-up: How to Talk to Kids About Pittsburgh via JewishBoston
Education & Outreach: Confronting Antisemitism via The Anti-Defamation League
Jewish Education in a Scary World via The Jewish Education Project
How to Talk to Kids About Difficult Subjects via Common Sense Media

Books And Stories Can Help

The Bible features many stories about the Jewish people facing oppression and persecution, especially as a minority group. The important theme in stories like Exodus, the Purim story, and the Hanukkah story, though are that small groups of brave individuals band together to triumph over adversity. If you are looking for age-appropriate versions of these stories, you can visit our Books section, or click the links below.

The Hanukkah Story for Kids Ages 5 and under
The Hanukkah Story for Kids Ages 6+
The Passover Story for Kids Ages 5 and under
The Passover Story for Kids Ages 6+

Books About Overcoming Adversity

The characters in these stories face intolerance and discrimination but triumph nonetheless.

Jumping Jenny by Ellen Bari

Flying High 
by Julian Edelman

The Mysterious Guests by Eric A. Kimmel

Yosef's Dream 
by Sylvia Rouss

The Wise Shoemaker of Studena by Syd Lieberman

Yuvi's Candy Tree 
by Lesley Simpson


The following PJ Our Way titles deal with anti-Semitism and discrimination head-on:

The Time Tunnel 2: The Dreyfus Affair by Galia Ron-Feder-Amit

The Time Tunnel 2: The Dreyfus Affair 
by Galia Ron-Feder-Amit

Penina Levine is a Hard Boiled Egg by Rebecca O'Connell

Penina Levine is a Hard Boiled Egg 
by Rebecca O'Connell

Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 by Gail Langer Karwoski

Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 
by Gail Langer Karwoski

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy

by Amy Fellner Dominy


Books About Standing Up For What Is Right

A Time to Be Brave by Joan Betty Stuchner

A Time to Be Brave 
by Joan Betty Stuchner

Brave Girl 
by Michelle Markel

Goldie Takes a Stand 
by Barbara Krasner

Like a Maccabee by Barbara Bietz

Like a Maccabee 
by Barbara Bietz

Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Goldman Gelman

Queen Esther Saves Her People 
by Rita Goldman Gelman

Books About The Holocaust

While PJ Library does not send books about the Holocaust, we have compiled a list of high-quality children's books that address the subject in an age-appropriate fashion. View the list here.

As PJ Our Way is geared towards older children, ages 9-11, some of the selections do involve storylines and themes associated with the Holocaust. You can learn more about individual titles on the PJ Our Way Parent's Blog.


4 Steps for Talking to Kids About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shootings via
5 Tips for Talking to Children About What Happened in Pittsburgh via ADL
Confronting Antisemitism: If I Don't Respond, Who Will? via
Our Kids and Antisemitism via St. Louis Jewish Light
Discrimination: What it is, and How to Cope via The American Psychological Association
Why I'm Teaching My Kids That Anti-Semitism is Not the New Normal via

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