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anti-semitism Today

10/20/2022 11:05:32 AM


Rabbi Abigail Treu

Earlier this week, I was astounded to log in to one of the news websites I read regularly and see the word “Jew” appear – not once in one article, but three times, three different headlines, covering three different topics. This was not the Jewish press, mind you; it was the Drudge Report, which I read along with its left-leaning counterparts (we also subscribe to both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. Lest you don’t believe me when I say I am a centrist and pluralist to the core.) Between Kanye, former President Trump, and the UC Berkeley Law School student government, there was what to cover.

There are only 6 million Jews in this country. That’s less than 2% of the national population. Worldwide, there are fewer than 16 million Jews. In the world. That’s 0.2% of the world population.

Why are we in the headlines? Why are we the object of such fascination, obsession, hatred?

The recently appointed head of the Institute for Advance Study, David Nirenberg, explored this topic in his 2013 tome Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. He argued that anti-Judaism “should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought…[but is] rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.” He traces this idea from Egypt through Roman through Islam and Christianity to the modern era. Several hundred pages of scholarship later he concludes: “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel’.”

Nine years later, we have only seen this problem grow. When a highly regarded law school, an internationally acclaimed rap star, and a former President are all talking about the Jewish problem, our radar goes off the charts.

I have very little new to add to the conversation. I write about this now mostly to convey a concern, one that I know most of us already share. I can invite you to read thought pieces I’ve appreciated this week, among them What Kanye Can Teach Us About Anti-Semitism, Yair Rosenberg’s piece in his Deep Shtetl column in The Atlantic, and We’re Jewish Berkeley Law Students, Excluded from Many Areas of Campus, published in the Daily Beast. I can invite us all to be activists on this issue, in as dovish and loving a way we can, so that we sow seeds of peace and not further antagonism. Our teens in the POST program are engaging this year again with the Anti-Defamation League’s educational programming so they can go out into the world educated and equipped with knowledge to help them navigate life on campus and in the world as Jews. As an ADL Signature Synagogue, we will continue to offer educational programs for adults to help us fight anti-Semitism. This spring we are looking forward to new programming now in the works with the local chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom, helping strengthen our connection to the local Muslim community, and to lifting up as we do each year the memory of the Holocaust through the Interfaith Holocaust Commemoration and Yom HaShoah programming.

When I was in college, a student group sent in the postal mail an oversized envelope to every self-identified Jewish student on campus. Open the envelope, and on a large piece of paper, in huge black letters occupying nearly the whole page, was one word: JEW. A postcard also in the envelope asked: how do you feel seeing that word? Are you ashamed, defensive, braced for an insult? Or are you proud?

In a moment where our culture has once again fixated on Jew-bashing and anti-Semitism, I hope our congregation can be a source of Jewish pride, sanctuary and strength. I do not have easy answers for combatting anti-Semitism. What I do have is a way for us to calm our nerves and strengthen our resolve: residing in community. The more we connect with one another, the more we own our Jewish identities and operate from a deep sense of peoplehood. This is as true for our family members who are not Jewish as it is for those of us who were born or chose to become Jewish. May our connection to one another as a Jewish community fill us with the strength and resolve we need to move forward in a world that clearly needs us to heal much that is broken.

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784