Areyah Kaltmann

Antisemitism Can Never be Normalized or Celebrated

A placard at a protest outside the British parliament in London on March 26, 2024 (Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA)

I wanted to share a thought about why antisemitism can never be normalized or celebrated  for even one single moment. We just celebrated the festival of Purim—a holiday which commemorates the Divine salvation of the Jewish people from annihilation in ancient Persia. Chronicled in the Book of Esther, the Purim narrative unfolds as Haman, the nefarious advisor in Persia’s royal court, plotted the genocide of the Jewish people living in the Persian empire.

Queen Esther, concealing her Jewish identity while in the Achashverosh’s Palace, courageously thwarts Haman’s diabolical scheme, saving the Jews from destruction. For nearly 2,500 years, Jews have commemorated these events and celebrated with festivities, exchanges of gifts, and public readings of the Book of Esther.

However, for myself and Jews worldwide, Purim has a different resonance this year. In the aftermath of Oct 7, the world confronts a sobering reality: the normalization of antisemitism. Antisemitism, once relegated to hateful comments on the dark web or the occasional rantings of a lunatic, is now out in the open. For the past several months, it seems as though each time we turn on the news, we see reports of antisemitic events which even a year ago would have been unthinkable.

In the past week alone, a stream of distressing incidents has flooded our social news feeds. A video went viral of Harvard employees tearing down posters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas; A popular podcaster openly spouted antisemitic conspiracies on her show; A synagogue in Florida was just arsoned. And if that’s not enough, A Photograph by an AP photographer depicting Hamas terrorists celebrating over the body of Shani Louk wins POY photojournalism competition’s Team Picture Story of the Year. Antisemitism has tragically become normalized and tolerated!!!

The significance of Purim this year is not only in the historic miracle, but in its timeless lesson: the need for Jewish action in the face of antisemitism.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the Purim story was when Queen Esther, confronted with a critical decision on whether to intercede on behalf of the Jews, sought counsel from her cousin Mordechai. Should she approach King Achashverosh unannounced and risk her life? Or should she remain silent until a safer, more strategic time presented itself?

Mordechai’s response is resounding. He said: “If you keep silent in this crisis… you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

This profound lesson, which has echoed through the ages, reminds us that silence in the face of injustice is immoral and amounts to complicity. Waiting for a safer moment to act risks normalizing antisemitism and emboldening its perpetrators.

Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this – Esther 4:14

As the Maharal, the esteemed 16th century Rabbi who fought vicious blood libels (and a direct ancestor of mine), noted, Esther was encouraged to intervene right away. Why is there such a rushed call to action, when proper strategy needed to be formulated? Why is there such a mad rush? After all there was still 11 months to go before the day of the threat of Genocide would be relevant! Haste and a lack of planning could lead to disastrous consequences! But that is precisely the point! To wait even one day is simply too much!! because every lapsed moment encourages the normalization of Jew-hatred, making the genocidal decree much more difficult to overturn at a later date.

The same imperative holds true today. We cannot allow Jew-hatred to become normalized. Period. End of discussion!!

Every minute that the hostages are not freed is a minute too long!!! We are living in a sick time when a Photograph by AP photographer who crossed the border with Hamas terrorists depicting the terrorists celebrating over the body of Shani Louk actually won the POY photojournalism competition’s Team Picture Story of the Year. This is the sad and pathetic world that we are now living in!!

Each day that passes without unequivocal condemnation is a victory for hate and a threat to our societal fabric of tolerance and inclusion. We must confront antisemitism boldly, calling it out wherever it manifests, and refusing to let it take hold unchallenged, for even one moment!! Who could have believed that an AP photographer would be actually rewarded for not stopping a massacre and seeing it unfold before his guilty eyes??

However, we must recognize that combating hate requires more than just opposition to it; we must also be proactive in strengthening our community, solidarity, and Jewish identity. Jewish resilience has always been rooted in our rich heritage, traditions, and communal pride. My father, a survivor of the Holocaust, and my personal hero, used to say “The greatest victory against Hitler is young Jews today proudly embracing their Jewish identity.”

Purim is a reminder of the unceasing nature of antisemitism, and the type of vigilance needed to dispel it. Today, as in ancient times, Jews face enemies intent on our destruction. We must not remain passive in the face of hatred and normalized Antisemitism !! Rather, we must stand united and resolute in our commitment to defend our heritage.

In the darkness of these challenging times, the spirit of Purim offers solace and inspiration. Embedded within our tradition is the unwavering belief that even in the darkest of hours, hope prevails. As the old Hasidic adage goes, “Tracht Gut Vet Zein Gut”—”Think good, and it will be good.” This optimism propelled Esther to speak out against evil and has guided Jews throughout history in their struggle against injustice.

As we prepare for Passover this year , let us reaffirm our commitment to combating antisemitism and embracing our Jewish identity with pride. Indeed our ancestors couldn’t stay even one extra moment in Egypt. Together, we must ensure that the light of hope continues to shine brightly, dispelling the shadows of hatred and bigotry for all. We need Moshiach now more than ever!!

Have a great Shabbos,


About the Author
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the Director of Chabad Columbus at the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center. For over three decades, Rabbi Kaltmann and his wife Esther have put their heart and soul into serving the Columbus Jewish community. In addition to directing Chabad Columbus, the Rabbi and his family also operate LifeTown Columbus — which teaches essential life skills to more than 2,100 Ohio students with special needs in a 5,000-square-foot miniature city, Kitchen of Life — which fosters social-emotional skills for young people through culinary arts, Friendship Circle Columbus, the Jewish Business Network, and dozens of other programs. Areyah and Esther have adult children who serve Chabad of Downtown Columbus, oversee Chabad’s many programs and enthusiastically serve people throughout the state.
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