Question. Why is there a resurgence of antisemitism?
Answer. In theory it is connected with Israel.
It is customary to say that antisemitism was once religious but has now become secular. Like all generalisations this view does not entirely accord with the facts. “Secular” Jew-hatred and teaching of contempt for Jews existed in the time of Tacitus and Seneca before Christianity arose with its resentment of Jewish rejection of Jesus, though religious antisemitism released a Jew from persecution by means of baptism.
Modern secular antisemitism emerged in Germany in the 1870s, though it did not displace religious antisemitism, which continues in a more polite guise than before. Modern antisemitism, which even attracted scientists and philosophers, alleged that Jews had negative traits which were evil and could only be eliminated by eliminating the Jews.
In parallel, supposed negative characteristics of Israel associated with alleged suppression of Palestinians and so-called settlements are claimed by the antisemites to imperil the Middle East and the world, and can only be removed by removing or at least weakening Israel. Quite irrational, since Israel was being criticised long before the Palestinian issue or the creation of “settlements” were on the agenda.
Why is Israel attacked? Because it is a Jewish State, and supposed “Jewish” traits govern its policies and actions…
Antisemitism will not easily disappear. At times it is quiescent, but then it rears its head again.
Jewish self-destruction or abasement solve nothing. The Jewish response must be creative – more Jewish identity and Jewish commitment.
The whole world must educate towards tolerance and eradicate hatred, suspicion, demonisation and prejudice, not as a favour to Jews but out of world self-interest. If Jews and Judaism are not safe, neither is any religion or ideology. If synagogues are not safe, neither are churches or mosques.
PRAYING WITHOUT AN UMBRELLA.
This Sunday we will mark the fast of Tishah B’Av. If it were like any other great day in the calendar we would be out shopping.
For Pesach we buy Haggadot and restock our whole kitchens. For Shavu’ot we purchase dairy foods. For Sukkot it is Arba’ah Minim and items for the sukkah. Add Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Purim and Chanukah to the list and we never seem to be free of preparations for the next calendrical occasion.
But Tishah B’Av? You might think that we would all be ransacking the bookshops for beautifully bound copies of Megillat Echah… but you’d be wrong. You might also think that the synagogues would be making sure that they had a nicely written parchment scroll, but there too you’d be wrong.
Echah is read from a paper-bound printed text, sometimes hastily or shoddily produced as if it would be unlikely to be used again. There are printed editions with translation and commentary, but no-one suggests that Tishah B’Av is impossible without them. The whole idea of the day is that by next year, please God, the Mashi’ach will have come and the fast will be unnecessary.
To use a beautiful scroll of Echah or insist that everyone buy a library edition almost suggests that we don’t have faith. It is like the community that assembled in the town square to pray for rain but when the rabbi looked at the crowd he cancelled the prayers because no-one had brought an umbrella.
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com