Anti-Semitism Sucks — The Need for a Powerful Response:

Last week, Jews worldwide celebrated the Jewish festival of Purim. This is a festival of joy, celebrating the attempt of Prime Minister Haman who, in the then country of Persia over a thousand years ago, attempted to wipe out the entire Jewish population. The crime was stopped by the bravery of two individuals: Esther and Mordechai. So Jews celebrate.

Jews have not been as lucky since those days, where exile and persecution joined forces to upend Jewish populations over the world during the centuries,  culminating in the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust during World War II. And so it continues.

From Argentina to America, England to Italy, France to Israel and all geographical points in between, anti-Semitism has been raising its head with a confident, shameless, and deliberately confrontational recklessness rarely seen, in such a compounded manner, since the Holocaust.

Jews are murdered, beaten up, victims of slurs, swastikas, derisory comments, political denouncements in countries that were thought to be tolerant to all living in  tolerant, hate-free, and liberal societies given WWII and the horrors inflicted particularly on the Jews.

On the contrary. For as soon as Jews had began to think that acceptance has been the norm, that safety could be taken for granted, and that equality in all ways would be a given, these very same societies seem to be turning against Jews everywhere. And not just Jews. The horrendous massacre in New Zealand of over 50 Muslim people in their mosques at prayer, and an equal number of individuals severely wounded is such an unspeakable act of mayhem that societies cannot, and must not, allow this major outburst of hatred go unanswered until the next outrage happens in some other country in the world. Following the massacre displayed by an individual in Pittsburgh, where Jews were also mowed down in cold blood while they were praying in a synagogue, there must now be a call to action to arrest this phobia against Jews and Muslims and anyone else who is unique and different within their societies.

Not quite as co-ordinated as the Shoah, but we are witnesses with major alarm, and dark despondency, as the chief rabbi of Argentina was publicly beaten up, an attack on a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center that injured five, and another JCC in Kansas where three people were murdered. Jews are besmirched and belittled by public figures all over the high-class elite spectrum in a seeming conspiracy that targets them for institutional and personal ire. The rhetoric is rising like never before that seems we are in a tidal tsunami from which only more horrible and tragic incidents will accrue in due time, with frightening consequences.

And whereas the stress is now in America, Europe is celebrating its ability to attempt to match its democratic cousin beyond the pond. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of UK’s Labour Party, has been a leading progenitor of remarks that have condemned Jews, Israel and Zionists, using his exceptionally public position to advance his theories and his diatribes. Holland just recently witnessed a parade on which a float displayed two Orthodox Jews grabbing money — in that well known blasphemy with which anti-Semites love to taunt the Jews. In France, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was knifed to death in her apartment by a young man who shouted “Allah akbar.” European Jews feel the cold animosity off their fellow citizens by being careful refraining from wearing yarmulkes in public, limiting overt Jewish symbols on synagogue structures, and keeping their Jewish identities reserved. Lets forget political correctness and ask the obvious question: Are countries with rising numbers of Muslims the most affected  in promoting anti-Semitism? Are they taking off from where their hatred began in their countries of origin and now transplanting that hatred to their newly adoptive countries ? And from whom other hate groups are just going with the flow?

In America, anti-Semitism has been ratcheted up by the two freshmen democratic incumbents, Ilhan Omar, and Ortasio-Cortez, both of whom liberally voice their Muslim and liberal denouncements of Jews particularly, and Israel generally. Its as if they just can’t get enough of their free-wheeling condemnations, knowing they will get away with such statements because that could very well have been some of the underlying reasons they were voted into congress. And by a wider group of established individuals, statements are made in inference or directly that leave no flexibility for the imagination as to what they mean and to whom such remarks are directed. And these remarks are then followed by weak apologies or responses that their remarks were taken out of context, or that there were misunderstandings. And if an apology is ever verbalized, you can be sure there are underlying political or far-from altruistic concerns

It used to be that such remarks would never have been made publicly, assuming they had to be made at all. Now, in a society that has become so diverse with their own sectional interests, anti-Semitism has become de rigeur and approaching signs of normal behavior, Recently, the ADL recorded no less than 1986 incidents of anti-Semitism last year. A sign, they said, that perpetrators felt emboldened enough to break the law and carry out their acts.

Lets be very clear. We are in a time that it has become acceptable to demoralize, sow hatred and fear, and just know the consequences will just flow away like water off a duck’s back. And why is this, today, in the 21st century ? Pundits and intellectuals will offer an endless prose of reasons and possibilities. John Podhoretz has written the following:

“When you say that Jews have magical hypnotic powers to control other people, you’re an anti-Semite. When you say Jews control other people through money, you’re an anti-Semite. When you say Jews have conspired to force you to apologize for saying anti-Semitic things, you’re an anti-Semite. Ilhan Omar is an anti-Semite.”

And therein lies the rub off what is happening, not just in America today, but in Europe. And the point is relevantly voiced by Maureen Callahan in the New York Post. In a heading that states there is no shame in America ( and, we might also include Europe ) anymore, she cites the long list of celebrities who have fallen on their own swords, Jussie Smollett, Jeff Bezos, Robert Kraft,Jill Abramson, Mike Cohen, R.Kelly….and the list is endless. The lieutenant-governor of Virginia remains in office after having been accused of sexual assault.

What does all of this have to do with anti-Semitism ? The culture out in the public is, if you can get away with it shamelessly, then go for it. And shame has so declined that even the public at large feels so numbed by the lack of it. Shame used to be a deterrent for so much, losing reputation,  monies, and position. Not so today. There is no shame…..and no fear. Anti-Semitism’s poison is free-wheeling, open, and untroubled because the people in front leading these horrendous remarks, incendiary attacks, and ruthless killings have no shame, and the people hearing and reading about them  have no care. So many people around the world are killed, murdered, maimed. So much despicable rhetoric is directed from so many individuals against so many groups (note, we are so diverse in all of our foibles !) that we have become numbed. And the lack of shame elicits very little concern from most of us.

\Anti-Semitism thrives, hatred against the other thrives, because murder thrives, invectives are thriving, negativity is reaching stratospheric heights, and the general malaise of societies is benign and uncaring.

Anti-Semitism sucks. But the time is ripe for it, and people will run with it, because when all else fails, its a great excuse for one’s own faults, as well as society’s.

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Landau is Emeritus Rabbi and President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He served the Bnai Jacob Congregation and later Ner Tamid Congregation in Baltimore. He was born in the UK, graduated Jews College with Bachelors Degree in Jewish Studies, has Smichah from Israel.
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