Writings from the Rabbis

Update on the "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anti-Semitism" Panel
Mar 9th 2018

This past week, I joined Rabbi Yael Splansky and Rabbi Chaim Strauchler at Shaarei Shomayim for a rabbinic conversation on the new anti-Semitism. This was the second in a series of public discussions (our first conversation was on Israel). CJN Editor Yoni Goldstein again did a great job moderating our discussion. There was  an excellent and diverse turnout.

We shared classic rabbinic texts that contextualize how Jews have integrated the fact that we are hated. We discussed the emotional cost of anti-Semitism on the lived experience of Jews in our communities, and how we see a generational change in how anti-Semitism is approached by Jews today. We spoke about trends in anti-Semitism and the realisation that - where we might have hoped 25 years ago that this scourge might be eliminated - such hope now seems unfounded.

We referenced  contemporary  analyses by Irwin Cotler and Robert Wistrich which identify specific categories or types of anti-semitism. We also called attention to the recent work of David Nirenberg, which indicates that anti-Judaism is part of the warp and weft of western civilization, even when not manifested as antisemitism (that is, behaviour directed against Jews). My colleagues and I pointed to antisemitism in international organizations and Islamic extremist ideology, each driven by different motivations, as well as to the shifting attitudes about white privilege that now locate Jews in a position of power (which is also new). 

In the end, our conclusion was that there was a period when one might have hoped for an abatement of antisemitism (approximately 1967- 1990), but it has had a recrudescence in recent decades. The recognition of its persistence is both new and old. New in some of its manifestations and for those that had not been taught to expect such hatred; old in the realization that even as we work against antisemitism, it is (sadly) not something that can be eradicated,  merely (hopefully) managed. While we indicated that our conversation would deal with the ‘new antisemitism,' what we discovered in our personal discussion is that the 'new' may manifest itself by digital media and include expressions of anti-Zionism, it is disturbingly similar to the 'old' historic antisemitism."

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