A wave of antisemitism is crashing into our world anew –Jewish communities are encountering it throughout the diaspora– and we as a people are expected to provide short and long-term solutions to this execrable phenomenon. As it happens, many of us are involved in the re-creation of different modern varieties of the well-known Golem, replicas that like the mythical being sometimes get out of control even though their main objective is to protect the Jewish people. Anyhow, I recognize that in this text it is not my intent to take on short-term solutions such as those Golems, but the long-term ones.
The main incentive to keep an eye on the future is that, hopefully, the atrocities and aberrations we have learned about in recent months will have blurred in our memories sooner or later, allowing us to survive as individuals. We will also need a master plan for the purpose of surviving as a group and protecting the world against antisemitism. Let me add that, to develop this course of action, we would need to base our reflections on the tradition we have inherited, as we have been collectively doing for thousands of years.
Zechariah prophesized on behalf of the Creator: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit”. Those words, directed to Zerubbabel, cautioned the leader to trust in the strength of an individual or in the power of a group, but in haShem’s will on the subject of the rebuilding of the Beit haMikdash. The Talmud teaches that only the prophet’s words which were needed for future generations were written down and kept. This means that the books of the prophets included in the Tanach are there for us to learn from as required. Maybe in the current situation we must unravel the message hidden behind Zechariah´s words, a message intended for our generation, as we try to set the conditions that assure a more liveable world for all of humanity.
This proposal comes from the fact that the referenced quote has been thundering in my head these last few weeks. It has popped up on each occasion that I have been reflecting on strategies needed to tackle the everlasting prejudice and the harmful antisemitism that has burgeoned lately in the secular institutions around me. It seems to me that “not by might, nor by power” must be our motto in this battle. In order to take on this idea, we are required to understand its deepest meanings as we use this wise and ancient expression.
Antisemitism –hostility towards Jewish people– seems to simmer sometimes but, from time to time, it suddenly comes to a boil, and we feel its consequences intensely. This flare-up usually takes place as soon as firebrands understand that they have the legitimacy to come out, which is when they feel that it has become socially acceptable to spew forth their enmity over our people with impunity. Aversions resurface from time after time as a result of previous ideologies and feelings that are easily triggered by politicians and hate speech. This means that the events we are witnessing or experiencing are nothing but a revival of negative ancient cultural prejudices in many hearts and minds.
As prejudices are based solidly on beliefs and attitudes learned in childhood, the preconceptions are difficult to modify. We also know that even when prejudices are influenced by any potentially positive information recently acquired, the believer will find a way back to his previous beliefs and attitudes. This fact should not discourage us, but rather reinforce our position as supporters of long-term treatment by refraining from attempting to convince those people that irrationally stand against us. “Not by might, nor by power”, individual or group strength are not enough to overcome this evil. Instead we need to invest most of our energy in preventing the emergence of new generations of haters, developing educational programs for non Jewish schools, and educating in the spirit of coexistence. This is one of the most effective instruments that other excluded groups have implemented in recent decades and whose fruits are higher levels of acceptance and respect..
Some people may feel uncomfortable and even ask why we should not implement more generic programs against any kind of discrimination. We have learned that we cannot rely on general anti-discrimination programs, that we need to develop specific programs against antisemitism while we go out and cooperate with primary schools and non-formal education structures all around. To be proactive in education does not mean to proselytize, as it was not to develop interfaith dialogue in the first place. We are required to develop emotional and cultural nets, we have to let others know our values, and at the same time we must demand respect for our culture, integrity and lifes. This is the best path to support all of us immersed in multicultural or intercultural societies as a minority, to keep a strong diaspora that can stand behind Israel and to support our unique Jewish state.
“Not by might, nor by power”, but by educating new generations in humanitarian values. This probably is the finest and the most effective strategy to reduce antisemitism in the long term. “Not by might, nor by power”, but by bringing the ruach of diversity and respect to the world. By the spirit of harmony between human beings that believe in equal rights for any person no matter his origin, faith or culture as long as this person respects this value too.
- Abuín Vences, N., Cuesta Cambra, U., Niño González, J. I., & Bengochea González, C. (2022). Análisis del discurso de odio en función de la ideología: Efectos emocionales y cognitivos. Comunicar: revista científica iberoamericana de comunicación y educación. P. 45.
- Allport, G. W., Clark, K., & Pettigrew, T. (1954). The nature of prejudice.
- Black, W. W., Fedewa, A. L., & Gonzalez, K. A. (2012). Effects of “Safe School” programs and policies on the social climate for sexual-minority youth: A review of the literature. Journal of LGBT youth, 9(4), 321-339.
- Rashi on Zechariah perek 4, pasuk 6.
- Talmud Babli, Masechet Megilah 14a.
- Zechariah perek 4, pasuk 6. Translation by Sefaria.