Many Jews think that if they rationalize attacks on other Jews and join in on the slandering Israel train, they will somehow be shielded from antisemitism. Not only are these strategies ineffective, but they are also dangerous and fan the flames of Jew-hatred.
In 1932, on the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, Rachel Posner, a rabbi's wife in Kiel, Germany, took a photo of her menorah on her windowsill. At the time, the Posner's windowsill was across the road from the regional office of the Nazi Party, which had a sizable swastika flag hanging ominously from the building's exterior. The image was taken shortly before the Nazis took power, when tensions and hatred against the Jewish people were intensifying. On the back of the photo, she wrote the words: "Chanukah 5692 (1932) "Death to Judah," So the flag says, "Judah will live forever," So the light answers."
Now, 90 years after that powerful photograph was taken, the atmosphere around the world feels unsettlingly similar. Antisemitism is becoming more mainstream, whether it’s Kanye West's antisemitic rants, United Nations officials claiming the "Jewish Lobby" controls social media, or a US university adopting a bylaw refusing to invite or sponsor any speaker who supports "Zionism."
In the past, Jews have used various strategies and coping mechanisms to deal with the onslaught of hatred to survive and manage day-to-day life. These strategies have always manifested differently, depending on the circumstances that the Jewish people were facing at the time. Today, subconsciously, or perhaps even consciously, many Jews think that if they rationalize attacks on other Jews and join in on the slandering Israel train, they will somehow be shielded from antisemitism.
Additionally, most antisemitic attacks have been directed at visible Jews. A report published by Americans Against Antisemitism found that the vast majority (94%) of the victims of the attacks were Haredi Orthodox, with a majority (52%) belonging to the Hasidic community. Many Jews will assume that if these Jews are under attack, they must be doing something to deserve it.
According to an American Jewish Committee study of US and Israeli Jewish millennials conducted in April 2022, more than a quarter of American Jews believe it is acceptable to distance themselves from Israel to blend in better socially.
Not only are these strategies ineffective, but they are also dangerous and fan the flames of Jew-hatred.
As Winston Churchill once said, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Assimilation has never shielded Jews from antisemitism and only leads to a false sense of security. The Nazis didn't care if you were religious or not. Haters don't care if a Jew wears a black hat, a kippa seruga (knitted skullcap), or no religious attire at all.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood what many Jews today do not. He famously said, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking antisemitism!" Anti-Zionism is simply the modern version of an age-old hatred. Consider the Mapping Project, an interactive map purportedly revealing the connections between "Zionist leaders and major NGOs." However, it did not only target Zionist organizations. They specifically targeted Jewish organizations and institutions such as schools and synagogues, going as far as revealing the names of staff members. Antisemitism is devoid of logic. It is not the fault of the Jews or the State of Israel.
Furthermore, when Jews embrace ideologies that vilify Jews or Israel, they embolden antisemites by providing a cover for the haters to incite hatred, which leads to violence and attacks. Whether it's Peter Beinart writing editorials condemning Israeli "apartheid," Jewish Voice for Peace siding with anti-Israel students who regularly call for violence against other Jews, or Jewish journalists vilifying Hasidic Jews in the New York Times, these Jews help to legitimize antisemitism.
The most effective weapon and strategy that Jews have ever had to defend and combat antisemitism is the exact opposite of assimilation and rejection of our Jewish identity. It is when we are proud of who we are, when we defend our rights, and when we stand together as a nation, despite our differences.
This year, on the second night of Chanukah, the Posners' menorah was lit in Germany again at an event with the Posners' grandchildren and Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The lights shone against a backdrop of raging antisemitism in a world that screams "death to the Jews." When we band together, we will form a powerful, unified force that declares, "We will be here forever." Together, our enemies don't stand a chance.
Elisheva Aarons is the digital director for United with Israel. As a dynamic and perceptive digital marketer, Aarons creates and implements successful strategies to promote the truth about Israel.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Adam Milstein.