Let’s not legitimate anti-Semitism

Responding to the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, Rabbi Jill Jacobs of Truah authored a much-criticized tweet:

The logic goes that the murder was not anti-Semitic but evoked by long-term tensions. One hears the same notion suggested by bystanders who proclaimed, “we never had a shooting like this until they [the Orthodox Jews] came.”

Jacobs’ proclamation echoes the powerful words of New Jersey School Board member, Joan Terrell-Paige, who accused Jews of being “brutes”. Writing on Facebook, Terrell-Paige enumerated the cycle of tension because, she claims, “black homeowners were threatened, intimidated, and harassed.” Therefore it would appear not so surprising that the accused, David N. Anderson and Francine Graham, procured arms and explosives with intent to kill Jews. Long-term tensions can sometimes lead to murderous rampages.

Jacobs’ tweet caused a mini-social-media-storm. Some called her out for “excusing” the events and victim-blaming.

However, if we look at history, maybe she is right. Perhaps long-term tension is the root of the hatred. Yet, is it possible she didn’t go far enough?

Indeed it is probably true, some radical members of the African American community hate Jews because of long term tensions – we Jews are landlords, control the banks, control the media and entertainment industry.

But let’s not limit it to this murderous rampage.

Same reason, long-term tensions, was given by the Poway, California synagogue shooter who told the 911 operator that he was “defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people.”

Same reason given by the killer in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue: long term tensions over Jews trying to bring in refugees and foreigners to the U.S. and control the president and the halls of power in the U.S.

Same reason some white supremacists and the KKK want to kill Jews. Long term tensions. They claim we control the media, banks, and are trying to replace them with persons of color.

Same reason was given by Nazis – Long term tensions. Jews are polluting the gene pool, control the banks, start wars to control everyone, etc.

Same reason certain Arabs hate Jews – we tried to steal their land, control the world media, and turn the world against them.

Same reason Voltaire and many European philosophers and others hated the Jews – Jews are degenerate decedents with perverse notions trying throughout history to infect the world with our version of biblical morality. All of history is long-term indeed.

Same reason the Cossacks hated the Jews – long term tensions because Jews controlled taxation in Poland and functioned outside feudal norms.

Same reason the Spanish in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries hated the Jews – even the ones who converted because of long term tensions over money and religion and not accepting the truth of Christianity.

Same long term tensions with France, England, etc. Jews refuse to convert and just be nice like everyone else, forcing those countries to burn our books and ultimately to expel us.

Same with the Hellenistic peoples – Jews tried to worship differently. If only they would have stopped the long term tension of being xenophobic to other polytheistic religions. Had Jews been more open to paganism throughout history, perhaps, the oppressions which led to the wars of Chanukah would have never happened.

Same goes for Haman. As he said, “there is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them.” How long had we Jews lived scattered among the Persians obeying our own laws? Of course that might spark genocidal tendencies in rulers.

Same with the Ancient Egyptians – if only the Jews didn’t grow so fast and maybe want to take over. For over 200 years, tensions of our existence caused Pharaoh to murder and enslave the Hebrew people.

Same with Esau, if only Jacob hadn’t stolen the blessing and the birthright, Esau wouldn’t have been forced to try to kill him.

Basically, we have had long term tension with everyone throughout history.

Through one tweet, the riddle of antisemitism is solved – there is none. Just “long-term tensions”.

Oh if only it was so simple. But it’s not. Antisemitism never fits into a right/left narrative.

Let’s be absolutely clear, it doesn’t matter the race, nationality, or religion of the haters. There is no excusing, understanding, legitimizing, or rationalizing murder, expulsion, violence, harassment or any other manifestation of Jew-hatred. Antisemitism, like all other forms of racism, is a social ill and should be responded to as such.

About the Author
Rabbi Berman is the Associate Director at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. In addition, he has held numerous posts in education from the high school level through adult education. He founded the Jewish Learning Initiative (JLI) at Brandeis University and served as rabbinic advisory to the Orthodox community there for several years. Previously, he was a RaM at Midreshet Lindenbaum where he also served as the Rav of the dormitory.
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