Holocaust Remembrance Day: Reflections on New Antisemitism
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the past, and how modern-day circumstances prove that the ominous specter of antisemitism didn’t simply die with World War II.
Indeed, Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg, recently stated that social media had given antisemites propaganda power “that the Nazis could only dream of.” Mr. Goldberg also shared his fears of a “bleak” future without survivors to tell their stories.
In my book, New Antisemitism Mutation of a Long-Lived Hatred, I emphasized the fact that antisemitism is alive and kicking and should serve as a wake-up call to Jews all over the world. Like Mr. Goldberg, many in the Jewish community have grave concerns for the future.
For example, Steven Spielberg, who established the USC Shoah Foundation to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, has expressed deep concern that genocide is as possible today as during the Nazi era. “When collective hate organizes and gets industrialized, then genocide follows. We have to take it more seriously today than I think we have had to take it in a generation.”
Within three months of Hitler’s coming to power in Germany in 1933, a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses and professionals was ordered. The Nazis’ official explanation for the boycotts was that they were implemented as a counter-reaction to the demands of Jewish organizations in the US and Britain that were boycotting German-made products due to the Nazis’ rise to power. This action legitimized anti-Jewish activity and gave it official support which had not existed until that time, and it marked the commencement of the war against the Jews, with the penetration of the German consciousness with antisemitic ideology.
The Nazi boycotts were accompanied by harassment and vandalism of Jewish businesses, people, and institutions. The boycotts were followed by a widening cyclone of actions that led to the deaths of six million of our brethren. For this reason, it is understandable that when Jews hear the word “boycott,” it still triggers a brutal reminder of the beginnings of the Holocaust.
There are differences between the 1930s and today, the major one being the existence of the State of Israel. The position of Israel today in relation to worldwide Jewry is similar to that of the Jews of Germany in the 1930s: it stands at the frontline and bears the brunt of a new war against the Jews. Antisemitism has been repackaged under the guise of anti-Zionism.
Israel is an intrinsic part of the collective Jewish identity and is perceived as such by the nations of the world. So, when judgment is passed and punishment is imposed on Israel, it falls on the entire Jewish collective and not only an individual part. The increasing pressure against Jews and the State of Israel is a wake-up call for Jews to come together and ask essential questions: Who are we as a people? Where do we come from? Where are we headed?
The Jewish people are a unique example in humanity. The fact that our ancestors originally came from a wide variety of backgrounds, united above their differences, and became one nation, united “as one man with one heart,” makes us unique. But this uniqueness does not mean we are to look down on others; it means we are to serve others by using our ancestral wisdom to benefit humanity. Giving the world an example of unity under the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself,” is what the nations subliminally demand from us. They instinctively feel Jews hold the keys to peace and prosperity in the world, and their complaint for our not sharing these keys manifests as antisemitism.
It is incumbent upon each and every Jew to unite above our differences yet again. The only thing that will put an end to the new war against Jews is our making the entire Jewish people as one. As the great Kabbalist Rav Yehuda Ashlag wrote about the pivotal role of the Jewish nation and what is expected from us to fulfill:
“[The Creator said] ‘You shall be My Segula [remedy/virtue] from among all peoples.’ This means that you will be My remedy, and sparks of purification and cleansing of the body shall pass through you onto all the peoples and the nations of the world. The nations of the world are not yet ready for it, and I need at least one nation to start with now, so it will be as a remedy for all the nations.” The Writings of Baal HaSulam, The Arvut [Mutual Guarantee]
Over time, Jews have abandoned the unique connection we once cultivated and have become self-centered. However, the pressure of globalization is forcing us toward interdependence once again as humanity seeks a way to live together peacefully but cannot find one. Until Jews relearn how to create unity between us as before, the world will lack access to the knowledge of how to accomplish this necessity for integration and will continue to blame us for its woes. It is mounting pressure upon us until we finally change our course of action toward cohesion rather than division.
The need for cohesion is as crucial today as it was in those days. Jews must embark on a shared path to become a unified and thriving people once again with a desire for a common spirit and vision. We must set aside our materialistic impulses and our fears for the sake of this and future generations.