We are all justifiably concerned about the worldwide increase in anti-Semitic acts against Jewish people and institutions. Right wing hate mongers have been emboldened by the election of ultra-nationalists both here in the United States as well as Europe, and cozied up to by none other than Israel’s Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. On the far left, support of Palestinians often blurs into awful slanderous speech against all Jews, especially those in power positions. It is bitterly ironic that these two polar opposite enemies can agree on one thing only—antipathy towards the Jew. Sadly, in spite of our gains once and not-so-very long ago unimaginable, we must always remain vigilant. That is the on-going fate of the Jewish people.
However, we must take care not to go crazy with this. Recently, I was shown a video claiming an anti-Semitic attack, bemoaning the fact that the press did not report it. When I played the brief video what I saw was a woman wheeling a double stroller with at least one baby inside and a young man, walking in the opposite direction, kicking it as he passed by. Now anyone who kicks a stroller, with or without a child in it, is reprehensible. He should be caught and punished. But to claim, with certainty, that anti-Semitism (because the woman pushing the stroller appeared to possibly be an orthodox Jew) was the motivating factor? Really?
I know this will appear to be hair-splitting to some of you but there is a vast difference between anti-Semitism (the systematic societal hatred and/or antipathy toward all Jews) and anti-Semitic acts (the actions of those individuals whose warped sense of self includes violent words and actions aimed at our people). The former was the scourge of Western civilization for almost two thousand years. Whether it was forced ghettoization, expulsions, laws that limited our freedom and access to society, pogroms, even genocide, our people endured and survived. Fortunately, this is no longer our reality in most of the world. In fact, the opposite is true. Today, as almost every survey demonstrates, Jewish people are loved, respected and accepted, enjoying all the rights, freedoms, and privileges of every citizen in every democracy everywhere. What’s more, we are protected by the law. When deplorable violence is perpetrated against us as it was in Pittsburgh this year, the full force of society was on our side. Vigils and expressions of sympathy and support came from every sector of the population. We were not alone bearing our grief and wounds. Quite the opposite! We were embraced by our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters. This should be a cause of celebration, even in the face of communal pain, sadness and loss.
On the other hand, there is always another hand in life, there are plenty of anti-Semites out there and, I believe, as long as there is a Jew, there always will be. It is part and parcel of the dark side of human nature. Similarly, there are racists, misogynists, and homophobes all spreading irrational fear and hatred, which too often turns to violence. I am not sure why this is, why “otherness” arouses negative emotions in some, and joyous curiosity in others. Perhaps it is the vestige of some animal instinct regarding our safety or survival. After all, in spite of all the exceptional qualities we possess, in terms of evolution, we human beings are a rather recent species, still evolving. Who knows? But what I do know is that it anti-Semites are real, that they cause real suffering, and that on-going vigilance is necessary.
Nevertheless, caution should not equal paranoia nor some knee-jerk pulling out of the anti-Semitism card at each and every incident. Our communal resources should not be wasted in pointless protectionism or ranting about some misunderstanding or old trope; rather, we should be joining with all of our many old and new allies to build on the sense of connection and unity that we truly share. The expansion of love and acceptance has made this the best time ever in the history of the world to be a Jew. Like I said, the time for hand-wringing is over. Time, instead, to celebrate!
P.S. While we are on the subject, not every criticism of Israel automatically equals hidden anti-Semitism. And if a Jew does so, out of hopeful idealism, it doesn’t mean she or he is misguided or a self-hating Jew. It is time we grow up, like the State of Israel itself, and learn to separate the two.
P.P.S. I go into greater depth on this sensitive subject in my forthcoming book, Beyond Survival being released this May. Hope you will check it out!
I exist to be a connector—connecting people to themselves (allowing for awareness and insight, as well as wholeness and personal growth); to one another (creating sacred community); and to God (linking themselves to a Higher Purpose in all they do in life).
Phone: (305) 794 – 0442