If we forget that we are Jewish, the world reminds us. At times, antisemitism has seemed as if it has largely faded away, but all too soon we are reminded that the quiet was a brief reprieve. Despite this historical consistency, a recent spike in antisemitic attacks around the world, and especially in North America, has caught some Jews off guard. This talk asks: What is the reason for antisemitism and how should we respond?
Is it about Israel? It’s clear to anyone who listens to what the attackers are saying, screaming, writing and doing, that the conflict is an excuse, not a cause, of the recent uptick in attacks on Jews. Antisemites look for an excuse to hate and aggress against Jews, and no matter how illogical and unfair, the Arab war against Israel is the excuse du jour.
Can antisemitism be solved through educational and other initiatives, as racism and other bigotry often is? History has proven that viewing antisemitism as we view other forms of group hate simply can’t explain or solve the hatred. We look around and we see people who claim to be so tolerant, so enlightened, so loving of diversity, people who would be embarrassed to think anything negative about anyone because of their skin color, language, culture, and so on, hate Jews without shame.
Aren’t Jews just a convenient scapegoat? Some people try to explain anti-Jewish hatred wherever it occurs with the scapegoat theory. This posits that politicians, rulers, religious leaders and others simply are looking to deflect attention away from their own ills and need a scapegoat. (Most often, the Holocaust is attributed to this flawed theory.) If a scapegoat is needed, if this is so: Why the Jews? Why have nations in the past and those today with significant and diverse minority populations, including those of recent immigrants, blame only (or mainly) the Jews for their and the world’s ills? Why do people who’ve never met a Jew, who don’t even have Jews living in their country, hate or at the very least, harbor negative beliefs about Jews?
The truth is, antisemitism is not like any other hatred. Judaism and the existence of the Jewish people have been an intolerable provocation to the megalomaniacs and dictators throughout history, from Pharaoh to Haman (Amalek), from Torquemada to Stalin, from Arafat to Ahmadinejad, and beyond. But not only powerful villains have hated Jews. Jew haters have also come from the most illiterate classes (Eastern European peasants) as well as the most educated and “enlightened” classes (academics across the University systems.)
There is no clear-cut reason why Jews are hated. Jews have been hated for being rich and for being poor. For being “clannish” and for pushing our way into gentile society. For being capitalists. For being socialists. For being religious. For being atheists. In other words, Jews are hated for any reason or no reason at all. Some of our worst enemies have given us clues as to why we are hated. Some even directly stated their objections, including Hitler, יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ, who explained that the Jews remind other people of their obligation to consult their “conscience”. Jews “ruin” the pleasures of living a life with nothing higher to answer to except human logic and desire.
There are other reasons for the hatred, too. For example, the continued existence of the Jewish people is proof of Torah (Hebrew Bible) prophecy and this alone is cause for disdain and worse, among those who would live without morals and ethics, or who would supplant God’s Word with human ideologies. Religions that rely on our Torah as a primary source for their religions, hate us Jews. They realize (or at least their religious scholars do) that if the Hebrew Bible is true, then their religion simply can’t be, because their religions contradict the Word of God.
Is there something you can do? Yes! Ultimately, antisemitism is a deep spiritual hatred that expresses itself in the material world in a variety of forms. It makes sense that the response to it must be both spiritual and material.
If you are interested in exploring the spiritual source of antisemitism and a uniquely Jewish response, including a special call to action for Jewish women, then please join us for this Zoom event based on the teachings of our Jewish sages and tzaddikim, and inspired by the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
You must pre-register via email or text. Send your full name and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: This event will offer non-PC, Jewish spiritual insights, and is not meant to offend.