Antisemitism in America

We live in the best of times. At least as far antisemitism is concerned. Now before anyone goes ballistic here and says I’m off my rocker, let me explain.

I realize there has been a wave of antisemitic attacks in recent weeks. Dozens of bomb threats have been made against mostly Jewish Centers and a few Jewish days schools. There has also been some major vandalism at 2 Jewish cemeteries. One in Missouri  and one in Pennsylvania.

Not to mention all the antisemitic rhetoric disguised as anti Zionist rhetoric coming out of the leftist academics in recent years. And their all too eager students whose minds full of mush coming in to those colleges is being replaced with the mush of some leftist academics. And then used in virulent antisemitic protests disguised as anti Israel protests in many university campuses across the country. Then there is BDS and some celebrity boycotts of Israel.

It is also quite possible that the President’s rhetoric during the campaign – and since – has emboldened the antisemitic fringe to come out from under their rocks and speak their minds. Or perhaps even encouraging the people making those bomb threats or vandalizing Jewish cemeteries .

With all that happening, how can I say we live in the best of times? Well we do. The fact happens to be that no one was touched in any of those bomb threats. Because that’s all they were. Threats. There were no bombs at all.

This of course does not mean those threats didn’t cause fear and havoc to the Jews invloved with those institutions. It absolutely did. And should not be taken lightly. Thankfully it is being taken seriously by the FBI. Hopefully they will find those doing it; put a stop to it; and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Which in this case should be considered a hate crime.

But it still does not rise to the level of death or injury that an actual bomb would cause. Was it just some kids doing prank calls? Was it an easy tactic by terrorists that simply want to strike fear into our hearts? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure. It doesn’t take a lot of people to phone in dozens of threats over a period of a few weeks in order to terrorize people. One person with a disposable cell phone can be doing it all by himself without ever being caught.

My point here is that these threats are not a reflection of how Jews are seen in America today by the vast majority of its citizens and leaders. One caller (or even a few callers) does not an antisemitic society make. Nor do the few leftist academics and their easily persuaded students.

Here is what we should be focusing on.

Recent polls have shown that Jews are the most admired religious group in America  – surpassing Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims and Atheists. This is unprecedented. If one considers what it was like just a few generations ago in Europe, and even America, one can’t underestimate the vastness of differences. Let us examine some of them.

Europe was at best indifferent to Hitler’s treatment of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Which included a lot more than just threatening phone calls to Jewish Centers. Many European governments were willing participants with Hitler rounding up their Jewish citizens to be shipped off into concentration camps. And eventually to death camps. There were pogroms all over Europe both before and after the Holocaust.

American antisemitism was alive and well then too. American icons like Henry Ford were overt antisemites determined to spread their hatred of Jews to the entire world. He published  ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ detailing his conspiracy theories about Jewish plans takeover of the world. American hero Charles Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer that urged Roosevelt not to listen to the Jews agitating for American entry into the war.

The Jewish passengers from pre Holocaust Germany on the ship St. Louis were famously denied entry into the United States – ‘proving’ to Hitler than nobody wanted the Jews. During the Holocaust, Breckenridge Long, the State Department official in charge of immigration was famously indifferent to the news  that Jews were being slaughtered in large numbers.  He left immigration quotas unfilled denying them entry into the US even as simple legal immigrants, let alone as refugees.

There was Father Chalres Coughlin, a Roman Catholic Priest who had his own weekly radio program. 30 million weekly listeners heard his pro Hitler – antisemitic weekly rants – until his show was finally canceled in September of 1940.

As mentioned, even after the Holocaust there was plenty of European antisemtism in the form of new pogroms. And America had no shortage of antisemites that were otherwise American heroes. General George S. Patton’s antisemitism was well documented. Among other disparaging comments about Jews, here is one thing he wrote in his journal during his tenure overseeing the post Holocaust Displaced Persons camps:

“[The inspector believes] that the Displaced Person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals.”

In pre – and immediate post war America, Jews were barred from buying homes in certain neighborhoods, barred from certain exclusive clubs and severely limited by quotas into top universities and professional schools. Like Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Yale. Jews were viewed with suspicion. And looked down upon – even shunned – by American blue blood Republicans. The Christian world saw us as Christ killers.

If we contrast all of that to what we have now, it should be obvious that we live in the best of times. As mentioned Jews are the most admired people in America. We no longer have to worry about quotas. We are no longer barred from anything. And we are fully accepted – even welcomed by both the political right and the political left.

A former Democratic President’s daughter can marry a Jew at a ceremony that had a lot of Jewish trappings with a fawning media looking on.

The right wing that used to be the home for blue blood antisemites are tripping all over themselves to support Israel and honor its prime minister with standing ovations during an address he gave to both houses of congress last year

The Catholic Church now rejects the notion that we are Christ killers and considers Judaism to be a brother religion – rejecting its former position that Christianity was a replacement religion.

Evangelicals are more pro Israel than most Jews. And are donating to Jewish charities in record numbers. (Ask my friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein about that. Last year he distributed $150 million in Christaian donations to the Jewish poor in both Israel and Russia.)

Hollywood is filled with Jews. The occasional antisemite is ostracized in Hollywood.

Jews are in academia, the arts and sciences in a big way and recognized for their achievements by all kinds of prestigious awards. Nobel prizes are given to Jews in far greater percentages than our rather minuscule percentage of general society.

We had an immediate past President that appointed an observant Jew to a top cabinet post and honored 2 Jewish holidays yearly in the White house, Chanuka and Pesach (which included a White House seder which he and his family attended every year).

We have a current President whose daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism. And who is Orthodox Jewish husband may be the President’stop adiviser.

Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer is the top Democrat in the Senate. He is a proud Jew who voted against his own party and  President in opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran. He colleagues still gave him the job. I could go on, but this post is long enough.

The bottom line is that – yes, antisemitism still exists. It may even be on the rise. And antisemites are now making a lot of noise. But it still exists is only at the very fringes of society and is far overshadowed by our acceptance. We should not forget where we are right now. Which – I think it is safe to say – is the best position as Jews we have ever been in since the destruction of the 2ndTemple in Jerusalem.

That being said, our highly regarded status as Jews is not entirely a blessing. Because it very likely facilitates so many Jews assimilating out of Judaism. But that is an entirely different conversation.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.
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