Anti-Semitism is unique amongst the hatreds in the world in a combination of four aspects. Longevity: it’s been around a really long time. Universality: antisemitism is prevalent virtually everywhere in the world at any given time, from Ancient Rome to Nazi Germany, Medieval Europe to modern-day America. Intensity: it’s expressed in a particularly extreme manner. Racism, sexism, ageism, it’s all bad, I know. But, antisemitism is always more prevalent globally, and far more extreme than any other “ism”. The fourth reason is confusion. There is surprisingly little agreement on why people hate the Jews, but the fact is every group has found their reasons.
Historians offer many “reasons” to explain why people are anti-Semitic: economic, the other, the “killers” of Jesus or the non-believers of other religions. These reasons have one thing in common, they have nothing to do with our being Jewish. Anne Frank wrote about the reason for antisemitism on April 11, 1944, in her diary: “Who knows — it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we now suffer. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any other country for that matter. We will always remain Jews.”
The Talmud, Maseches Shabbos 89b, cites the source of anti-Semitism using a play on words. The Torah was received at Har Sinai, Mount Sinai. The Hebrew pronunciation of “Sinai” is likened to the Hebrew word for “hatred”, sinah. “Why was the Torah given on a mountain called Sinai?” asks the Talmud. “Because the great sinah, the tremendous hatred aimed at the Jew, emanates from Sinai.” At Sinai, Jews were told that there is one God, who makes moral demands on all of humanity. Consequently, at Sinai, the Jewish nation became the target for the hatred of those whose strongest drive is to liberate mankind from the shackles of conscience and morality. At Sinai, the Jewish nation was appointed to be “a light unto the nations.” There are those who embrace Jews and the Jewish faith because of that light, but there are also those who want the world to be a place of spiritual darkness. These people who exhibit displays of antisemitism object to absolute morality.
As I stated after the horrific massacre in Pittsburgh, we do not know why bad things happen to good people. But we do know that for thousands of years, the Jewish people have been subject to this kind of persecution. Anti-semitism is the oldest and most continued form of hatred. We are only 0.2% of the world’s population, yet in annual FBI data, we repeatedly account for more than half of the Americans targeted by hate crimes. Celebrities like Snoop Dogg openly advocate spewing Louis Farrakhan’s messages of Jew hatred. The latest examples in Poway, Williamsburg, Brick Township, just show that even in America, antisemitism is alive and well.
We are a people that have had a target on our back since leaving Egypt when we were attacked by Amalek. We are a people that have endured countless attacks, expulsions, and attempts on our religion. Most importantly, we are a people that put something above ourselves. We are a people that brought purpose and meaning to an otherwise meaningless world. We are a people that brought absolute morality into the world. We are a people of tremendous history. We are a people that keep the Torah close to us, and use it to guide our every decision. We are an eternal people. With g-d’s help, we will defend ourselves against those who seek to destroy us and obliterate their memories. Time and time again, they’ve tried to kill us, but we’re still here. We’re still here and we will always be here!