Yes. Sadly, anti-Semitism is here. Again.
After rising steadily for the last few years, the scourge has made an exceptional jump since the beginning of the most recent round of violence between the State of Israel and Hamas.
ADL reports that as compared to May of 2020, May 2021 had more than double the anti-Semitic incidents in the US.
In one case, a group of hooligans violently assaulted a Jewish man in New York City’s Times Square, because he was seen wearing a Kippah.
In LA, pro-Palestinian thugs attacked diners at a kosher sushi restaurant. Shouting “dirty Jews”, they threw glass bottles, viciously beat several people, and sprayed a chemical at a diner.
And there were more incidents elsewhere in the United States, not to mention Europe, which has been even worse for quite some time now.
Ironically, the surge has paralleled between opposite political spectrums, causes and belief systems. Somehow, they all come together at this ignominious point. Whether alt-right or militant progressives, the virus has found a haven in which to fester.
Liberals accuse us of being too white, while the KKK says we’re not white enough.
We are too religious, yet too secular. We care too much about minorities, or we don’t care enough. We secretly control the whole world, yet at the same time we ‘just don’t get it’. We’re too backwards, and too advanced.
Everyone agrees we are “too” something, the question is only what.
Some won’t even grant us our own identity.
In December of 2019, a horrific tragedy occurred in Jersey City. Murderous attackers stormed a grocery store with high-powered weapons, brutally cutting down two innocent Jews and leaving a devastated husband, children, family and friends bereaved.
The perps belonged to a cult known as Black Hebrew Israelites. This group claims that they, and not us, are the “true” Jews.
Which begs the question: If every anti-Semite has a different accusation against the Jew, what is the true reason they all hate us?
Yes, historically speaking, various governments and other parties have cynically exploited dormant anti-Semitism. Their goals were simply to enrich themselves, fend off criticism, or just give themselves the emotional crutch of a scapegoat to blame for their troubles.
Notable examples include the dying Czarist regime of early 20th Century Russia, who instigated many pogroms and riots against the Jewish communities of Kiev, Kishinev and others in a vain attempt to deflect the simmering dissatisfaction of their subjects.
And in our day, Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel continue to bank on the force of anti-Semitism to assist their propaganda machine with frightening effectiveness.
The fact remains, however, that without an underlying pre-existing force of hatred, all this would not have been possible.
In fact, our question is an old question, which has been pondered by many a thinker.
In 1899, Mark Twain wrote an essay on the topic, titled “Concerning the Jews”. In it he quotes his Jewish friend who asked him “Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your minds is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind?”
Many diverse answers have been given to this question. But they often tend to be shallow, and unconvincing.
Famously, the Zionist Movement hoped that giving the Jewish people a homeland would end their “abnormality”, and cure anti-Semitism. The events of the last 50 years or so clearly show their great miscalculation.
And they followed the Reform movement, who hoped to accomplish the same through assimilating into the non-Jewish society. They, too, were unsuccessful, as evidenced by the horrors of the Holocaust.
The truth remains that all the complaints, accusations, and stereotyping against the Jewish people are the effect of the world’s oldest hate; not its cause.
So what is the true root of anti-Semitism?
Shockingly, we get our answer from the mouth of no less than the nemesis of the Jewish people, one of the most evil people to have ever lived; Adolf Hitler, may his name be erased.
These are the words of the despicable man: “Conscience is a Jewish invention. It is a mutilation like circumcision.” “The Jews have inflicted two wounds on the world: Circumcision for the body and conscience for the soul. I have come to free mankind from their shackles.”
And “I am freeing men from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge; from the dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a chimera called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and personal independence which only a very few can bear.”
There is no compliment more honest and sincere than one given by our worst enemy.
The instigator and leader of the Nazi nightmare says he hates us because we are the world’s conscience and moral compass. We fill him with guilt when he does wrong. We expect decent behavior from him. And this he will not tolerate.
But that is not all.
Jealousy is a very deep emotion. It’s very difficult for a person to watch his or her peer surpass him.
But usually, some form of escape is available. You can negate the status achieved by your friend.
If he is rich, you can focus on his lack of charisma. You can tell yourself he’s really still a ‘nobody’.
If he is a celebrity, you can assuage your jealousy by insisting society has poor taste.
But what if God expressed a special, unique love toward your friend? How do you get out of this one?
Of course, you can deny it. But what if deep inside you just knew it was true? Then where do you run?
That emotion is anti-Semitism defined.
An old English joke defines anti-Semitism as “hating Jews more than necessary”. In other words, anti-Semitic emotion is inevitable, even to an otherwise decent and civilized person. You can hold back from overreacting, but the core is still there.
Our sages actually let us in on this secret, many centuries ago. Mount Sinai, the site where God revealed Himself to our entire nation, actually alludes to this. The word “Sinai” is similar to the Hebrew word “sin’ah”, which means hatred.
At Mount Sinai we forged an everlasting relationship with God. But at the same time, a deep ‘sin’ah’ on the part of the other nations, was created.
So, yes, anti-Semitism is worrying. It gives us an uneasy feeling. Sometimes it’s even painful. Yet at the same time, it is invigorating and encouraging. It reaffirms for us what we already know. God loves us dearly, and they all know it.
They may not admit it. They may come up with 101 excuses for their inexplicable and irrational hate.
But for us, it is the greatest compliment.
By Rabbi Pinchos Fried