Two millennia ago the Jewish people were uprooted from their homeland and scattered throughout the world like so much chaff in the wind. As a landless and rootless people they became easy prey to the savagery of the host country’s antisemitism. From generation to generation the Jews’ inheritance has been one of isolation and persecution. The pages of history are stained with a legacy of antisemitism and in each generation a new page is penned. Jews are a people who were forced to hide behind their own shadow. One must wonder what is it about the Jews that animus has hounded them throughout time and place?

Long before Wilhelm Marr coined the term antisemitism in 1879, Jews were subjected to it. Many explanations, reasons and excuses are provided for that phenomenon and when a rationale could not be found one was fabricated.

Certainly you’ve heard the old canards about Jews poisoning the wells, using the blood of Christians to bake matzo and their clandestine efforts to dominate the world. Those timeworn libels have chased Jews to all corners of the earth. History provides a warren of motives for antisemitism and, if history repeats itself as we are taught, the future will be littered with many more fabrications.   

Whether you believe the biblical story of Abraham literally or understand it metaphorically it is generally accepted that when Abraham complied with God’s directive to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house, it marked the dawn of organized monotheism. However, from its inception there was something unique in the application of that nascent belief system, and that uniqueness may explain why antisemitism has dogged the Jewish people for millennia.

Throughout history it was customary for the conquered to adopt the religion of the conqueror. However it was not unusual for an emperor, king or monarch to permit the vanquished nation to continue practicing its religion as long as it also adopted the victor’s religion as well. However, Judaism did not follow that common practice of religion sharing.

Historically and to this day, normative Judaism was and is uncompromising in its theology. It does not include within the canon of its religious literature, the New Testament and the Koran. Nor does it share the doctrinal beliefs and rituals of a country’s national religion or that of its majority population.

On the other hand Christianity and Islam do include many of the lessons and stories found in the Tanach and append them to the New Testament and Koran respectively. By comparison to those two Abrahamic faiths, one might incorrectly conclude that Judaism is not tolerant of other religions. But nothing could be further from the truth, because unlike the practice of some denominations of Christianity and sects of Islam, Judaism respects the legitimacy of other religions by not proselytizing its adherents.

Today, with the infusion of modern technology into our daily lives and its proliferation in the social media, antisemitism has adapted to this relatively new environment like a virus. The application of reason and fact has little or no therapeutic effect on anti-Semites. Their goal is masked by benign sounding labels such as ‘Jews for Israel’, pro-Zion and ‘pro-Peace’. College campuses are rife with left-wing ideologues and Palestinian activists spewing anti-Semitic slanders, all the while pretending to be champions of tolerance and social justice.

Therefore we need to be both proactive and reactive to real or perceived wrongs. As a leading Jewish luminary, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks articulated, “Every one of us is an ambassador for our people and our faith and when we are true to ourselves, we are a blessing to the world.”

Today, in the face of the ugly resurgence of antisemitism worldwide for one to adopt a passive, neutral or complacent posture is unacceptable. Worse yet, it is immoral.

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