HOw should we respond to Anti semitism?
with shame or pride?











By Miriam Perl

With the recent spike in anti Semitism that has rocked Europe and, more recently, America, how should Jews respond? For many in our nation’s history, the response to anti-Semitism has resulted in an abandonment of faith.

With the recent spike in anti Semitism that has rocked Europe and, more recently, America, how should Jews respond? For many in our nation’s history, the response to anti-Semitism has resulted in an abandonment of faith. After WWII, many sought to distance themselves from living a Jewish life, not only from an understandable crisis of faith, but from the anxiety of living with a target on one’s back. Leaving Jewish practice was driven by fear after centuries of pogroms, expulsions, discrimination, and violence and meant living a life of freedom. Unencumbered by public displays of religion, many Jews hoped to protect themselves from the scourge of anti-Semitism.

This mass exodus from Jewish identity was driven by a belief that assimilation into the majority host culture would allow one to pursue the American dream. Living as an American first and as a Jew second (or not at all) meant never having to deal with the charge of dual loyalty. The drive to live a good life meant creating distance between the Jewish practices, rituals, and prayers associated with the insular and claustrophobic ghetto and shtetl.

It appears that along with this view of never having to live in fear, other less healthy attitudes have surfaced—including Jews absorbing the anti-Jewish stereotypes that veil a deeper dislike, even abhorrence on the part of those who promulgate them. As a result, for many Jews, living outwardly as Jews has become a point of shame. In this world of identity politics, where standing up for being gay, or black, or native Indian, or Muslim, is applauded, encouraged and protected, standing up for one’s Jewish identity does not carry with it the same cache. Those who support the State of Israel are also shamed into silence. Is it a coincidence that along with an internalization of one’s Jewish identity as a point of shame, anti-Semitic bigotry, particularly on campus, in the halls of power, in academia, and in the media continue to grow? Jews are still targets—even those who do not live explicitly and publicly Jewish lives.

a lesson from the attack in monsey

Perhaps the answer, then, is not to forsake one’s Jewish identity, but to embrace it more loudly. Will this quell the hatemongers and bigots and anti-Semites? Probably not. But at least one can say that the choices he/she makes is driven by one’s internal compass and by a desire to live a life authentically in line with one’s particular heritage. There is a feeling of strength, pride, and authentic self-determination that allows one to look anti Semitism in the eye and proclaim loudly and proudly, “I am proud to live as a Jew and nothing will stop that.” That attitude explains how the Chanukah party continued even after an attacker came into the home of a Monsey rabbi wielding a machete. The party goers proclaimed in that small act of bravado, “We will continue to live our lives in line with our beliefs, even after your despicable act.” While this example is exceptional, it would be wonderful if more Jews could proclaim their attachment to their roots, unabashedly and without fear of reprisal

bari weiss at the rally in new york

As Bari Weiss proclaimed with swelling pride at the recent 25,000-member march in New York City this week, “I am not a Jew because people hate my religion, my people, and my civilization. Not for a single moment does Jew-hatred, like the kind we are seeing in this city, make me a Jew. I am a Jew because of the audacity and the iconoclasm of Abraham, the first Jew of all. The whole world was awash in idols and he stood alone to proclaim the truth: There is one God. … I am a Jew because I know that there is a force far greater than that. And that is the force of who we are and the force of our world-changing ideas.”  

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