No Monopoly on anti-Semitism

Our first line of defense against Jew hatred needs to be engendering pride in being Jewish.

tefillin tefilin 88 (photo credit: )
tefillin tefilin 88
(photo credit: )
Purim would seem to provide us with the quintessential Hollywood ending to the story of anti-Semitism. My problem is with the sequel - or more accurately, the many sequels that have been directed since. The attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions that continue to be reported on regularly in the pages of The Jerusalem Post are clear evidence that no age, no country, no people can claim to have a monopoly on anti-Semitism. But for the moment, in the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to turn that phrase on its head, and address the matter of anti-Semitism in Monopoly. For those who are not au courant, Hasbro, the toy company that produces this board game, just conducted an on-line survey to determine which cities would be included in its soon-to-be released World Edition. Each metropolis in the running appeared on the list together with the country in which it is located, including Jerusalem - until an Arab protest succeeded in wiping Israel off the site. We Jews, of course, were outraged, and not to be outdone, managed to eliminate all the countries of the world from the Internet ballot. It was a Solomonic act of revenge that left every urban sprawl stateless, allowing Hasbro to deny any anti-Semitic tendencies, thereby averting a call for a boycott that would have left Jewish players everywhere buying up Boardwalk and Park Place at the risk of being accused of self-hatred. WHAT I want to know, however, is whether this affront to Israel has already been included in the various tallies of anti-Semitic incidents around the world of which we are regularly apprised here in Israel. As others' sense of financial security may be affected by the fluctuations in the stock market, our sense of national security seems to fluctuate with the ups and downs in the count of attacks against Jews. I certainly don't mean to make light of any expression of anti-Semitism, or its contemporary incarnation as anti-Zionism. The hatred is real, the damage is real, the affront is real, the threat is real, Ahmadinejad is real. In fact, when the story about Hasbro broke, it appeared on the front page of The Jerusalem Post (February 21) alongside a story about Israel's ambassador to the UN expressing outrage over Iran's ongoing call for Israel's destruction. Unfortunately, there is good reason for the recent amendment to The Jerusalem Program that now includes "the struggle against all manifestations of antisemtism" as being among the basic tenets of Zionism. I am concerned, however, that we may be misdirecting our resources in responding to the phenomenon. By concentrating our efforts on the Sisyphusian task of combating our enemies' intractable hatred of Jews, we may be neglecting a far more important duty, that of instilling within our own young people a passionate love of Judaism. The most vulnerable targets of the big lie of anti-Semitism are not getting the protection they deserve, and they will be its first casualties. If the next generation is not armed with positive reasons for remaining Jewish, if its members do not imbibe the substance of our tradition, the splendor of its values, and the beauty of its practice, then even if we should manage to bring about an end to the most vile antipathy towards Jews, there will be none left to rejoice in the triumph. PURIM PROVIDES us with an archetypical paradigm for dealing with anti-Semitism, including both "the love of Mordecai" and the "hatred of Haman." Much is made in our tradition of the relative merit of the two, and their significance as motivators for our actions. It is the balance that is essential. Do we fight hatred with hatred, or do we fight it with love, not by turning the other cheek (a concept completely foreign to the Book of Esther), but by embracing all that Mordecai stood for? His commitment to the future of the Jewish people was absolute, deeply rooted in his love for Judaism. Our first line of defense against anti-Semitism need be engendering the sort of pride in being Jewish that Mordecai so nobly exemplified. Dealing appropriately with Haman will then follow naturally enough - not only in this generation, but also in the generations to come. In any case, as Purim is traditionally a time for playing games, might I recommend having a go at Monopoly this year? By the way, for those who don't yet know, Jerusalem will be included in the new World Edition. It ranked number five in the final list of 20 cities selected. We Jews may be dispersed and we may be few in number, but apparently we know how to get out the vote. We may not yet have vanquished Amalek, but we have succeeded in remaining a proud people. The writer is a member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization and Senior Vice President of MERCAZ Olami, the Zionist arm of the Conservative Movement.