There are some things people know their entire life. Those things that define you as a person. It might be the language you speak or the country you were born in. It might be financial status of your family or the influence your family has on society. For many there is the one thing that may define you over all other things, answering that one question not only to others but more importantly to yourself. What are you? To me that one thing that defines me over everything else is that I am proudly and unapologetically Jewish. So for Jews and the Jewish religion to be the focus of my existence makes sense. What is not as easy to explain or understand is why the rest of the world seems to have an almost equal focus, dare I say obsession.
There were 17 million Jews in the world in 1939, estimated to be the highest the number ever reached. At that time there were about 2 billion people worldwide. Today there are an estimated 16 million of a worldwide population of over 8 billion. We are, by every account a very small percentage and certainly on paper at least, a very unthreatening number. And yet, the obsession the rest of the world has towards my people is one of life’s greatest mysteries. Whether we are better or worse, contributors or not, powerful or not, there is no question that compared to the rest of the world, the amount of attention that comes our way is disproportionate almost to the point of being bizarre. So the question I am putting out there, is why?
Secular Jews in Israel and the Diaspora might find it hard to accept, but the root of all the attention and focus is religious, and regardless of whether you embrace it or disassociate from it, you are seen by the rest of the world as a Jew, be it for good or for bad. In 1933 and beyond, Hitler managed to convince Germany that a people comprising 0.85% of the world’s population was the reason for all their problems. In 2023, Islamic terrorist groups and their sponsor nation Iran, have convinced millions of their fellow Muslims that a people that comprises .2% of the world’s population and a mere .88% of their number, are the biggest danger the world faces today. The numbers alone are enough to speak to the bizarre nature of this obsession and to the inevitable inaccuracy of their concern. Could it be that we are that bad of a people? Or dare I say it, could it be that we are that special?
I may be bordering on claiming Jewish exceptionalism, but if I am going to experience or learn about hate towards me and my people my entire life, for reasons that are not even close to proportionate, there is no reason for me to hold back. But because of the part of my Jewish teachings that focus on modesty, gratitude, but mostly the power of the Almighty, I will temper any desire I may have to speak to how exceptional we are as a people. Besides, of all you out there whose hate toward us defies logic and rationality, whether you like it or not, you are making that case without my help.
It is true that Jews have excelled in medicine, the arts, in business, and throughout many other elements of society. But what the rational and ethical people know, is that it generally does not stand in the way of others reaching the same heights. Yes there are Jews who are bad people, but that is one of the realities of humanity, that every group has its good and bad. But so much of what we are is a result of our value system. A value system that includes love of family, hard work, study, and worship. Could it be that the basis of all of this is the Torah, the Jewish teachings that are comprised of the Old Testament and all Rabbinical interpretations. When you look at it honestly, even for those who have chosen to live a secular life, it often appears as though their values are what was taught to them directly or indirectly through these teachings. The value for human life is so paramount that we are taught that saving a life supersedes all other laws.
That being said, good people come from all walks of life. All religions, races, nationalities produce high quality people. I have known too many and heard of too many great people from other faiths to think we Jews are the only ones who reach great heights. Thinking that way would be ludicrous. But we are still faced with that gnawing question. Why the obsession towards the Jewish people? The importance of Judaism within Christianity is obvious, and the evolution of Christian society has reached new heights in its embrace of the Jewish people, creating a growing friendship and alliance. And yet, although I am grateful for that alliance, it still fascinates me that a religion of 2.4 billion people is as fascinated by us as Christians are as a whole.
Ultimately I think the fascination and obsessive hatred do not come from the same origin. The fascination I believe comes from the Biblical teachings that the Jews are the Chosen People. I believe that due to Christian enlightenment, in past years far more than today, instead of leading towards a path of hatred, Christianity has embraced its Jewish roots and seen the importance Judaism holds in their beliefs for an ideal future.
So now to those who hate us. I believe that hatred is based on 2 things. The first being a more obvious and less original concept. Pure and blatant jealousy. Maybe it is because we are God’s Chosen People. Maybe it is because we excel in so many areas of society and often live lives filled with joy and meaning. Or maybe it is based in something even more profound. In the movie Tombstone, the movie about Wyatt Earp, the Doc Holliday character played by Val Kilmer had the following interaction with the Wyatt Earp character played by Kurt Russell when discussing a developing confrontation with an adversary.
Wyatt Earp: What does he need? Doc Holliday: Revenge. Wyatt Earp: For what? Doc Holliday: Bein’ born.
The amount of hate in the world today for the Jewish people is excessive. Hate is either a result of actions that cause hate, or indoctrination that breeds it. The amount of hate today is very clearly more of a result of indoctrination. But indoctrination requires fertile ground, and what ground is more fertile than that of misery. If you are happy you do not want to hate. You search for reasons not to hate. You seek the truth. But if one lives a life of misery and one with no meaning or direction, one sees no future, and one wants revenge for being born, that leads one to attempt to fill all those voids with the one emotion they can harness and hold on to. And the evil people with the money, power and ambition, exploit that for their selfish and devious means. I wish I could ask all those who hate me for being Jewish the following question? For what, if not to make this world better, are you put on this earth? I guarantee you, despite what you are being taught, it is not to hate and kill Jews. Sadly the chances of you ever seeing this is next to none, but if you ever do I also want you to ask yourself a question. Has the hate you’ve been taught done anything to make your life better? Has it made you happier? I know the answer, and if you were given the freedom to think for yourself you would as well.