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Steamboat Magazine

STANDing Up Against Discrimination

05/02/2024 07:00AM ● By Lyla Baker
(Photo: The “One Love Steamboat” mural, created by local students, lines the entrance to the tunnel under U.S. 40 from Starbucks to Walgreens. Courtesy of STAND.) 

Steamboat Springs, CO - A swastika was drawn on a car in the parking lot of the Steamboat Springs High School one month after Rabbi Kolby Morris-Dahary started her new role as Rabbi of the Har Mishpacha congregation. This wasn’t an isolated incident of discrimination: hate symbols had been drawn on notebooks and lockers; students had been bullied for their religion; another swastika had been burned into the wood of a picnic table. Rabbi Kolby knew she couldn’t allow these hate crimes to continue.

“When I see these hate symbols, I immediately think of my children and their future here in Steamboat,” says Rabbi Kolby. “They are my drive to make a better and safer Steamboat, not just for them as they grow older, but for other kids too, who deserve a safe and inclusive place to live.”

In partnership with Alissa Merage, then a Steamboat Springs Board of Education member, Rabbi Kolby founded the Steamboat Team to Disrupt Anti-Semitism and Discrimination – STAND, for short – in February 2023.  The STAND advisory committee – made up of members of the Steamboat Springs school district, local nonprofits, law enforcement and students –  meets monthly at the police station, and STAND public convenings occur quarterly at the Community Center or in Library Hall.  There were 60 participants at the first public convening last February and now, they’ve grown to include 140 people. STAND has also expanded to include three sub-committees: Community Engagement, Student Programming and Support, and Messaging and PR, each of which is led by local leaders and addresses specific areas of need in the community.

With the goal of supporting minority groups who have faced discrimination, STAND focuses on education and awareness. Last November, the organization hosted a “STANDing Up to Jewish Hate” event that educated the community on the horrors of the Holocaust and the rise of anti-semitism – not only in Steamboat but in America at large. Scott Levin, director of the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region, and Matt Kirkeker, a staff member of Senator Michael Bennet, shared their stories with the community and advocated for action. In December, STAND sponsored a movie screening of “A Town Called Victoria” at the library, followed by a discussion about how a community can come together and support each other after a hate crime has occurred. Moving forward, STAND plans to host similar community education events several times a year.

Specifically, STAND hopes to reach the student population in Steamboat. The organization collaborates with local leaders and the Steamboat school district to teach youth about the harms of discrimination and encourage them to speak out about their own experiences.  Recently, STAND collaborated with Steamboat Springs High School to host an essay contest.  Students were invited to submit personal essays about a time when they were discriminated against or had empathy for someone who was discriminated against. Over 30 students submitted papers.  “Stories are powerful,” it said on the essay contest flier; and with that in mind, STAND hopes that the students’ words will encourage Steamboat and the student body to promote change.

“I feel an obligation and necessity as Rabbi to keep my community and our children safe in our synagogue, in school, and in the streets of Routt County,” Rabbi Kolby says. “I imagine that through STAND we can begin to see some positive and lasting changes for all kids in Steamboat.”