Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Confronting Fear and Hate through the Light of Judaism

AI generated image courtesy of Catherine Perez-Shakdam
AI generated image courtesy of Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Reading Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with G-d led me to confront anew those vexing questions that have resurfaced amid the resurgence of antisemitism: How do we address the hatred we face, the fear consuming us, and our innate desire to protect those we cherish? It is in these troubled times that we must look deeply into the teachings and traditions that have guided humanity through millennia of darkness and despair. Judaism, with its profound conception of G-d and the imperative to manifest light, offers a poignant framework for navigating these challenges.

Judaism introduces a conception of G-d that is both radically monotheistic and intimately personal. The Shema, a central declaration of Jewish faith, proclaims the oneness of G-d: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our G-d, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is not merely a theological statement but a revolutionary assertion of divine unity that demands ethical monotheism—an understanding that G-d is indivisible, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

G-d in Judaism is not a distant, detached deity but a presence that pervades every aspect of existence. The Torah describes G-d as compassionate, just, and merciful, embodying qualities that humans are commanded to emulate. The Talmudic sages, ever the relentless seekers of wisdom, elaborated on this by emphasizing that G-d’s presence, the Shechinah, dwells where righteousness and justice prevail. Here lies the duality of G-d—both transcendent and immanent, a deity that is both the creator of the universe and the intimate presence in our moral lives.

Walsch’s dialogue with G-d underscores the power of human agency in creating reality. This notion finds a profound echo in the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam”—the obligation to repair the world. As we stand against the rising tide of fear and radicalism, the call to manifest light becomes not just a noble ideal but a moral imperative. Judaism teaches that each person possesses a divine spark, a fragment of the divine light that can illuminate even the darkest corners of existence.

In Conversations with G-d, Walsch emphasizes the transformative power of human agency. This is strikingly akin to the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam,” the mission to repair the world. As we confront the rising tide of fear and radicalism, manifesting light is not merely an ideal but a categorical imperative. Judaism teaches that each individual harbors a divine spark, a fragment of light capable of piercing through the darkest voids.

Walsch posits that fear is the root of all evil, a sentiment that Judaism counters by insisting on the power of love and justice. He writes, “Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards, harms. Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals”. This dichotomy between fear and love is central to understanding how we combat antisemitism and hate. This struggle is not merely defensive; it is an active mission to unleash this divine spark. It calls for acts of kindness, justice, and moral courage—a task not for the faint-hearted but for those who dare to confront darkness with the unwavering light of ethical conviction.

Fear and radicalism thrive in the fetid swamps of ignorance and division. Radicalism, in its myriad forms, seeks to undermine the very freedoms that are the cornerstone of a life well-lived. These ideologues, under the guise of divine mission or ideological purity, aim to strip us of the freedom G-d has so generously bestowed. This is the ultimate apostasy, for it denies the gift of free will, the ability to choose good over evil, to seek knowledge, and to experience life in its full spectrum.

Radicals, in their quest for control, echo the ancient tyrants who believed themselves creators, imposing their will over the divine will. They enact the gravest sin by denying humanity the freedom to think, to question, and to grow. In doing so, they not only perpetrate acts of hate but also fundamentally oppose the essence of faith itself. True faith, as articulated in both Walsch’s conversations and Jewish teachings, is a journey of discovery, an engagement with the divine through acts of love and justice.

Judaism’s prophets, from Isaiah to Jeremiah, faced down similar challenges, often standing alone against the moral rot of their times. Their messages, preserved across centuries, remind us that true faith is not passive acceptance but active resistance against injustice.

Walsch’s dialogues suggest that fear arises from a sense of separation—from G-d, from each other, and from our true selves. Judaism counters this with a radical assertion of interconnectedness: we are all created in the image of G-d, and thus, bound by a divine mandate to love and pursue justice. The command to love one’s neighbor as oneself is not a mere platitude but a revolutionary call to action.

To navigate through these perilous times, we must embrace the light within and commit to the principles of justice, compassion, and unity. This requires both personal and collective action. Individually, we must strive for spiritual growth and ethical living. Collectively, we must engage in societal transformation, fostering understanding, promoting peace, and standing resolutely against hatred and violence – if not for ourselves as for many cynism has found a fertile ground then for all future generations, for whom the world we manifest today will be their inheritance.

The wisdom of Judaism, coupled with the universal truths articulated in Conversations with G-d, offers a robust framework for this journey. It calls us to recognize our divine potential and to act as conduits of G-d’s light in a world increasingly overshadowed by fear and hatred.

About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Executive Director Forum of Foreign Relations (FFR) Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.
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