May 27, 2024 /

Between Us – February 2020

Over these past few months, anti-Semitism has become a growing concern for American Jewry. We long for a world of shared compassion and love and, perhaps for a little while, we were able to trick ourselves into believing that hatred of Jews in America was over. Unfortunately, that dream is over. We need to acknowledge and realize that there are still anti-Semites in the world.

We frequently hear stories that demonstrate that hatred for Jews is on the rise, and we are left with the question of, “how should we fight back?” It has been wonderful to see so many rallies, protests, and interfaith vigils, like the one that happened a few weeks ago, sponsored by the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. These rallies and vigils are essential because they serve as a way to rebuke the hatred we see around us and to stand in solidarity with those who support us.

However, anti-Semitism and xenophobia are some of the things that we will never be able to protest away. Yes, we want to push back against the bullies of the world. But, as Bari Weiss, writer for the NY Times, puts it, “If the response ends there, with anger, you have missed a tremendous opportunity to examine why you want to fight back and what, exactly, you want to fight for!”

Here are three of Bari Weiss’ suggestions for how we can actually combat anti-Semitism and not just complain about it:

1) Trust your discomfort.

If there is something that makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling, and don’t dismiss it. Anti-Semitism can come in many different forms. It could be a colleague from work who says something like, “Wow, you’re not like other Jews I know.” It could be from an organization that has ties to known anti-Semites. Or it could be a politician who neither condones an anti-Semitic action, nor condemns it. Behavior like this only emboldens anti-Semites. Don’t dismiss it- acknowledge it for what it is.

2) Call it out, especially when it’s hard.

If we stay quiet about the anti-Semitism we see around us, things will never change. It is easy when we condemn a shooting. It’s easy to condemn a Neo-Nazi rally. It’s harder to condemn the language of a friend, or a colleague, or a politician that you would otherwise support, however, it’s vital that you do so. Perhaps we are seeing a rise in anti-Semitism because we have kept our mouths shut for far too long.

3) Do not divide. Multiply!

It is time for us to build allies. To stick together with those who will fight anti-Semitism with us. Whether it is with those of a different religion, political party, or other denomination of Israel, it is time for us to leave our like-minded bubbles and form communities of support with those we might not usually be in relationship with.

However, the most crucial suggestion I can add is to make sure you don’t sit on the sidelines and watch. If you are discontent with what you see around you, do not be a passerby, be a participant. Get some skin in the game. We have a challenging round ahead of us. Still, we can overcome this as long as we continue to speak truth-to-power, support the value of freedom and liberty, and always stay proud of our Jewish heritage and tradition.

Rabbi Philip Bazeley