As a Jewish woman, this anti-Semitic photo is a reminder of the pervasive threat of hate in 2020

In the midst of racial equality protests following the murder of George Floyd, a recent photo of college students with drawn-on swastikas on their shoulders surfaced—bringing me to tears.

It's hard to imagine Ryann Milligan, a Penn State student, who has been identified in a change.org petition, stands with her friends smiling proud, showing off their swastikas and anti-Semitism. All over the country, people are angry and hurting. These egregious acts tear us further apart.


The photo reminds me of the first time I saw a swastika tattoo. It was 2007, and I had just turned 21 years old, entering into my junior year at Temple University. I was moving into a new apartment in Philadelphia, bright-eyed and hopeful to be a journalist and graduate soon. My roommate at the time was dating a sweet guy, someone I had met through social circles and lived down the hall from me on campus the year before. He invited his friend, someone I had never met, to help us move all the heavy furniture. It was a sweltering day in Center City, temperatures nearing 100 degrees, pearlescent sweat mustaches dotted our upper lips and perspired our faces. The friend I never met before, peeled off his shirt, leaving his white chest exposed. There it was—the hooked cross swastika tattoo of oppression and symbol of hatred— right in front of me.

I stood there, alone with him, looking at this large swastika near his right shoulder. It was an immediate gut punch. I wondered if he knew I was Jewish? If he found out, would he harm me? Does he hate black people too? I thought about all the times I read about people like him. All the racism, prejudice, xenophobia and white supremacy that's continued to grow across the globe. I remembered my recent trip to Israel and the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. What about my great grandmother—she was 13 years old when she escaped Nazi Germany on a boat after her entire family was slaughtered in a concentration camp. I thought about all the Jews who have been discriminated against for centuries.

I was silent for a few minutes, but those minutes felt like hours. A phone went off. I ignored it. I stared at him a little longer. "You going to answer it?" he asked me. I gripped the cell phone to my chest. "You know I'm Jewish," I blurted out. He looked perplexed. I pointed to the swastika. "Oh, that," he said. "I got dared to get that one night. I was really drunk. It doesn't mean anything to me." I don't know what offended and enraged me more—that he dismissed it or that he didn't understand why it was a big deal.

He clearly knew very little about the history of Nazism. I felt like it was my responsibility to strengthen his understanding of what it meant. Knowledge was my way of responding to the hate and anti-Semitism. I told him how horrible it made me feel. I explained how Jewish people and black people take that symbol as a sucker punch in the face. To my surprise, he listened and then apologized. He told me he would get it covered up immediately. I hope he did.

Things like this continue to happen in our country. Let's not forget, less than three years ago, hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched the streets of Charlottesville, Va., in the "Unite the Right" rally, protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. They brandished weapons and lit tiki torches, performing Nazi salutes and chanting "Jews will not replace us."

The rally turned violent when white supremacist James Field Jr. steered his Dodge Challenger into a peaceful crowed of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others. There was also the off-the-rails press conference with President Trump and his infamous quote: "You had some very fine people on both sides." It's difficult for things to actually change when the leader of our country doesn't fully condemn racism.

Seeing that picture of those young women really brought me back to that day in 2007. That was twelve years ago, but what has really changed? According to the NY Times, the Anti-Defamation League statistics reveal that anti-Semitism has more than doubled in the United States in 2018 over 2015. The question begs why would these young college girls do this? What were they thinking? It could be that they don't know better. Maybe they were raised like this. Maybe it was supposed to be a joke. Who knows.

The University responded to the image in a tweet stating, "We are disgusted by the behavior portrayed, which does not reflect our values. It is deeply troubling that as a society, we today are still facing racism." They also mentioned that they will continue to speak out against hateful speech, but they don't have the power to expel students over it, even if it is reprehensible. "But the University does have the power to condemn racism and address those who violate our values." However, the Change.org petition is asking for Milligan's removal at the college, which has garnered over 120,000 signatures so far.

In a time when our country is in turmoil, strife and demanding change, this can be a learning experience. When the women wash away the black ink swastikas on their skin, I hope they think about the visceral impact it's caused others. I can promise you that pain won't wash away as fast. Maybe they'll think about their actions—let's hope it's tattooed inside their brain. At least, this time, the ink wasn't permanent.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.