Bari Weiss, a former staff writer for the New York Times, tackles an age-old challenge in her thoroughly engrossing book, HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM. Weiss contends that modern anti-Semitism is rooted deeply in the soil of recorded history. She cites the Biblical account of the Nation of Amalek’s cowardly attack on the weakest and most vulnerable of the Israelites, while on their trek from slavery to freedom.
The nation of Amalek is no more, but those who are its spiritual heirs present an ever-present danger for the Jewish people. Weiss contends that before you can fight the enemy you must first take his measure, size him up, and find out where he is coming from. She identifies the three primary sources of today’s anti-Semitism: the extreme-left, the extreme-right, and radical-Islam. She credits David Nirenberg, the Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, with the astute observation that anti-Semitism is too narrow a term for bigotry against Jews because even in countries that have few or no Jews, anti-Semitism flourishes. Nirenberg prefers the term anti-Judaism. He explains his terminology thusly: the extreme right wants to destroy Jews and the extreme left wants to destroy Judaism. As for the radical-Islamists they do not tolerate a Jewish Homeland in Israel. Historically, there were Muslim regimes which permitted Jews to live under Islamic rule, but only as dhimmis, a form of second-class citizenship where they did not enjoy certain privileges and freedoms reserved for Muslims.
Weiss points out that anti-Semitism is the oldest form of bigotry and the most virulent to this day. Although Jews are the victims of most hate crimes, according to FBI statistics, they are disparaged by the extreme-left as being a people of ‘white privilege’ and by the radical-right contemptuously as ‘people of color’. For some, Jews are despised for being white and by others for being black; the incongruity could not be more stunning.
Jews are a people descended from slaves who changed the moral course of world history. For two-thousand years they have been a stranger in virtually every land until their recent return to their ancestral homeland, Israel. Weiss urges Jews to be proud of their heritage, accomplishments and contributions in various fields of endeavor and especially for introducing to the world Monotheism, Human Dignity, the Sanctity of Life, and Freedom. She thinks the best way to fight anti-Semitism is to practice Judaism openly as an affirmation of faith and not defensively or apologetically by obsequiously trying to curry favor with those who dislike you.
Weiss treats the reader to a straightforward, honest and refreshing style of prose, uncluttered with the over burdensome gravitas of an academic tome. Her mission and work are a call to arms to fight anti-Semitism not only in the contentious halls of Congress and the elitist ivory towers of academia, but in our everyday lives. For all the aforementioned reasons, I highly recommend this highly engaging, insightful and important work. It serves as a primer on how to fight those who would deny Jews their rightful place as one of civilization’s great people, a people like no other.