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  • Writer's picturerabbijonathanf

A Deeper Understanding of Anti-Semitism -Purim blog I

Last week on an advertising poster in the subway in Brooklyn

There are some people who by nature alarmists. Those folks are the types who I would hear say, speaking about anti-semitism in the United States, oh ‘it’ can happen here in America. The ‘it’ was what has always happened to us in foreign countries throughout our history, discrimination, persecution and murder. My response was, no, it will not happen here, or at least not unless the economy goes into a tail spin, and maybe then Jews would be blamed. Well the economy in the US is doing relatively well, and ‘it’ is happening. From the halls of congress, to a 60% increase in anti-semitic incidents in 2017, to the Pittsburg massacre, anti-semitism in American is not just on the rise but it has come out in the open. As the holiday of Purim approaches, we learn that anti-semitism is not a new phenomenon. The unfolding of the Purim drama 2500 years ago in which the Jewish people were almost destroyed was prompted by the anti-semitic hatred of Haman, the viceroy of ancient Persia and his followers, and with the collusion of the King Achashverus.

The Beginning of Haman's Downfall by Rembrandt

Anti-semitism is one of the enigmas of history, it just does not seem to want to go away. Why is that, and what are the causes of anti-semitism? I believe that there are four primary causes of antisemitism. The first is economic anti-semitism which is brought upon by jealousy. Jews are the second wealthiest minority in the United States, and Israel is now one of the fastest growing economies in the Western world and the only first world country in their neighborhood. Jews are well educated and driven, and tend to rise to the top in many fields. It is a short step from there to say Jews buy their power, then, have an inordinate amount of influence, and then that there is an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers. This is Protocols of the Elders of Zion 101, and it is going on in the halls of congress.

The second type of anti-semitism is xenophobia. Jews are different, Jews are outsiders, Jews have split loyalties because they are outsiders. There is a common dynamic of groups who reject and hate the outsider. You could say that there are many other minority groups, but the fact that we are a minority religion, as well as an ethnic group with a homeland in Israel makes us more of a target of racism.

The third type of anti-semitism is religious in nature. Due to replacement theology which had Christianity replacing Judaism, anti-semitism is built into Christianity. In order for them to be right we have to be wrong, and to show we are wrong, G-d rejected us. Of course it is a self-fulfilling dynamic that Christians kept us subjugated to prove we had been rejected. Islam has its own fair share of endemic anti-semitism which can be found directly in the Koran. Although today Christianity is moving away from its anti-semitic roots, Islamic anti-semitism has worsened.

The fourth type is ideological at its core. Judaism brought the world a message of morality, and as a result, the world hypocritically holds us to a different moral standard. We defend our homeland and it is a war crime. At the same time there is a subconscious resentment by some of what we represent because people do not want to be beholden to their conscience. Hitler’s obsessive hatred for Jews had a reasoning behind it beyond his racial theories of inferiority. He said in Mein Kampf ‘The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind: circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul’ By attacking the Jews people are sometimes consciously or subconsciously attacking G-d and morality. I believe this is the deepest reason for anti-semitism and is why it often appears to be so irrational. Gustavo Perednik uses the term Judeophobia to describe this phenomenon, and he sums it up this way: "The Jews were accused by the nationalists of being the creators of Communism; by the Communists of ruling Capitalism. If they live in non-Jewish countries, they are accused of double-loyalties; if they live in the Jewish country, of being racists. When they spend their money, they are reproached for being ostentatious; when they don't spend their money, of being avaricious. They are called rootless cosmopolitans or hardened chauvinists. If they assimilate, they are accused of being fifth-columnists, if they don't, of shutting themselves away ."

The final message of anti-semitism is perhaps the most important one for us as Jews, and that is what are we supposed to take away from the hatred. One sad lesson is that when they attack us they do not distinguish between different types of Jews. We are all one. Another message is the unfortunate reality that it was anti-semitism that brought half a million Jews to Israel in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, over half a million Sefardic Jews in the 50’s and 60’s and a million Russian Jews after that. And many question the future of European Jewry once more. It should not take anti-semitism to create a strong Israel.

So what are we as Jews supposed to do? While we ought to be vigilant about exposing anti-semitism, I always found it futile to demonstrate against it. Does it make sense to say to someone ‘please do not hate me?’ A number of years ago I was walking in central park and a guy saw my kipa and said ‘dirty Jew’. I could have defended my pride and dared him to say it again, but instead I responded ‘I am proud to be Jewish, so this is your issue not mine.’ The greatest way we can fight against anti-semitism is by strongly affirming our Jewish lives, and by being proud Jews who are committed to our Judaism. Clearly Megilat Ester, the Purim story teaches us that we must defend ourselves if our enemies threaten us, with diplomacy and if need be with force as well. This is why I will be at AIPAC next week, forwarding the cause of Israel. And we must all do what we can to ensure that there will always be a strong Israel to defend Jews throughout the world, and to be a haven for all Jews in times of danger.

The new face of anti-semitism in Congress

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