Jenny Tasse’s work is, in large part, the fight against antisemitism.
What motivates her is the antisemitic experiences of her maternal grandparents in Wisconsin.
“They were never physically targeted for their faith, to my knowledge, but they both recounted incidents of discrimination and verbal harassment in their youth and even to a degree in their adulthood,” said Tasse. She started on April 28 as director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
Tasse, 26, replaced Elana Kahn, who accepted a position as associate dean for outreach at the Spertus Institute for Leadership and Learning in Chicago.
“I am looking forward to build ing and strengthening bridges throughout the Milwaukee community, especially during this time,” Tasse said.
The JCRC records antisemitic incidents throughout the year in Wisconsin to track trends.
“She (Kahn) has built something incredible,” Tasse said, about her predecessor’s 10-year run. “The trust she has built in the community has formed a bedrock for me. I feel very fortunate coming in after her tenure.”
Tasse attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School and Shorewood High School, became a bat mitzvah at Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha and majored in political science and education policy at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A long-time community volunteer, she was involved in civic engagement in Madison, focusing on encouraging young people to vote.
She moved back to Milwaukee to be closer to family, and joined the JCRC board.
Tasse said her strengths are her “experience, focus and drive.” She has Israel and other advocacy experience and a background in political campaign organizing. “I get excited about civic engagement,” she said. “Society is so much stronger when everyone is involved. I find great joy in making connections and building relationships.”
Antisemitic acts and hate crimes have risen significantly in the past 10 years. “People holding antisemitic views are now more emboldened to act on their hate,” former director Kahn told the Chronicle in April.
As a go-to person for newspapers and television stations whenever an antisemitic act was discovered in Wisconsin, Kahn was among the Federation’s most visible representative. Tasse admits to “some slight trepidation” about being in the spotlight but added, “I very much want to emulate Elana’s calming presence when needed and bring a unifying message in difficult times.”
Tasse said another part of her job is “helping formulate how the Jewish community stands on Israel, making sure we educate the community on Israel, its beauty and complexity.”
But during these times, the JCRC may stand out for fighting antisemitism. Tasse said the JCRC seeks to make a “full-throated response in a meaningful, thoughtful way.”