Steven Windmueller
Is it Good for the Jews?

Judaism in the age of hate: Multiple forms of anti-semitism

Today, these five forms of hate define both the new and ancient forms of anti-Jewish expression. The battle against anti-Semitism is fundamentally a different war than has been waged in prior periods of Jewish history.  These are the new arenas of hate expression:

  • The high profile of Jews as political and cultural actors represents a central factor contributing to this new level of hostility. Jews are seen as globalists, framing the civic agenda. Their liberal ideas are identified as shaping Western thought and politics. Today, Jews are identified as the architects of culture in all of its multi-dimensional forms. In a social climate where conspiracy, hate and revenge are evident, such labeling is readily available. In an unsettled and uncertain world, who is to blame for our state of anxiety and fear? Jews provide a natural and ready outlet when seeking to reject the current state of society.
  • We are now several generations beyond the Holocaust. The meaning and message of this historic and brutal act has lost its moral framework.  In fact, the events surrounding the destruction of European Jewry are being subverted and translated into new forms of contemporary hate.  History is treated as fiction and with it comes the dismissal of accountability. This time the attributes and crimes of the Jewish people are being aligned with the actions of the State of Israel. Now, instead of being identified as victims, Jews have taken on the role of the perpetrator, i.e. the new Nazis!
  • Western culture has embedded in its storyline a distinctive and rich Jewish subtext. Much of today’s hate seeks to extract those traditional negative medieval Christian images and beliefs about Jews, as powerful, greedy, and controlling.  21st Century hatred is constructed and rooted in 15th Century beliefs.
  • For some, race and identity have taken on a heightened level of critical attention, with it has come to a counter-response where whiteness is aligned with the American story of slavery. Today, Jews are defined as “white people” and as such their claims to having a distinctive identity and unique history are rejected in whole or in part. Were they (Jews) not here on this continent from the outset, contributing to the exploitation of peoples of color? Despite Jewish claims to the contrary, “whiteness” has emerged as the new litmus test concerning race and oppression. In this new scenario around race, among some constituencies on the left, Jews are seen as “too white” and by others from the far right, as “white pretenders” seeking to “replace” the true white people!
  • Beyond these tangible explanations in connection with “why the Jews?” it is important to note that one does not actually need the reality of the Jews to construct hate. “Jews, Judaism and the State of Israel” represent images of what has come to be understood as problematic or dangerous. For some, the “idea” of the Jew is all that is necessary to strike out against what either is believed or imagined. “Jews” represent today the symbols of what people fear.

The confluence of these five streams of anti-Jewish sentiment comprises for this moment in time the assault being created against Jews, Judaism and the State of Israel.

The social media platforms are the delivery mechanisms today for this contemporary hate formula. As we know it is possible today to provide the messaging through these various outlets, providing a body of untruths to become the new reality. In an environment of conspiracy and in a framework of hate, acting upon these beliefs becomes a significantly easier terrain as the individual has been empowered.

Highlighted English word "anti semitism" and its definition in the dictionary.

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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