John Michael Graves is an Emerging Leader finalist. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

John Michael Graves is an Emerging Leader finalist. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

John Michael Graves: Champion for diversity and inclusion

Graves leads training sessions on Israel, Jewish history and the Holocaust and identifying antisemitic hate crimes.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2024. The winner will be named at an event on April 17.

John Michael Graves, 26

Northwest High School Regional Manager, StandWithUs

John Michael Graves is the northwest high school regional manager at StandWithUs, an international pro-Israel advocacy organization.

At StandWithUs, he organizes educational programs at high schools across the northwestern United States on topics that include Israel, Jewish history and the Holocaust.

“Teaching the Holocaust is teaching more than just the persecution of Jews,” Graves said. “You learn the depths of where society can take things if the well-meaning remain silent.”

He’s taught thousands of students about diversity and inclusion, and led training sessions for community and parent groups on identifying and responding to antisemitism.

“Hate does not happen in a vacuum,” Graves said. “It is a slippery slope that starts with uncomfortable comments, progresses to hate crimes, and can lead to institutional harm against entire communities of difference.”

Graves is a returning Emerging Leader candidate who made the Top 12 list last year, too.

“John Michael is a true servant leader who puts others and the overall community first. He is a rising star!” a nominator wrote.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism is on the rise. Last year, the number of incidents rose more than 300% compared to 2022.

“Now more than ever, we’re seeing a dramatic increase,” Graves said. “StandWithUs has had over 300 cases, the Anti-Defamation League has had thousands. We see a need for responding to this type of bigotry and hatred, when we didn’t see this need since maybe my grandparents.”

On behalf of StandWithUs, Graves led the effort that resulted in the Snohomish County Council’s passage of a resolution adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism for county agencies.

The council voted unanimously to adopt the resolution in January 2023.

In a press release, StandWithUS praised the decision and said the new policy “gives definitional tools to identify, monitor, investigate and engage in effective policy-making.”

Graves spoke to the council in person prior to the vote and told of his firsthand experience with antisemitism.

“Because many teens are the victims of antisemitism, I worked with local high school students to release statements and provide testimony as to why this proclamation was necessary,” he wrote.

“More actions such as these are needed to protect our increasingly diverse community,” Graves said. “I would be honored to collaborate and assist other groups or individuals seeking a similar path of justice in our ever-changing county landscape.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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