Promoting Jewish learning is the greatest revenge against our enemies

Many historians agree that antisemitism is reaching levels globally not seen since the Holocaust.

A HAREDI child reads from the Bible during a reading class at the Kehilot Ya’acov Torah School for boys in Jerusalem in 2010 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
A HAREDI child reads from the Bible during a reading class at the Kehilot Ya’acov Torah School for boys in Jerusalem in 2010
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
It is an undeniable fact that antisemitism is rising around the world. Again.
Earlier this week, it was reported that antisemitic attacks in Britain rose by 27% from 2018 to 2019. Antisemitic vandalism rose by 11%.
An Anti-Defamation League survey of 9,000 adults in 18 countries showed that one in four people have strongly negative opinions of Jews. These people admitted to believing that Jews were responsible for war, disease and other troubles.
France has a large Jewish population, and is home to the most Jews outside of Israel and the United States. France saw a 74% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2018 from 2017, according to French officials.
Here in the United States, from 2013 to 2018, there was a 150% increase in antisemitic incidents.
These incidents range from people hurling antisemitic insults to hurling bricks, people polluting Jewish prayer spaces with swastikas to polluting Jewish prayer spaces with bullets and knives.
Many historians agree that antisemitism is reaching levels globally not seen since the Holocaust.
But I am heartened to see the Jewish community, our neighbors, standing tall despite this hatred. Despite the attacks, vandalism and terrorist actions, the Jewish community is still celebrating its faith.
Last week, more than 25,000 Jews journeyed to Newark, New Jersey, for a celebration of Jewish study. Dirshu, the largest Jewish education organization in the world, hosted three events concurrently, celebrating the culmination of the Daf Yomi (“daily page”) Talmudic cycle of study.
Already, Dirshu had held 10 such celebrations in Israel, England, France and more. Thanks to Dirshu and its leadership under Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Jews around the world gathered to celebrate their pride and Judaism.
These events featured song, dance, keynote speakers and fellowship. Jews around the world proclaimed that they will not be silenced by hatred and will not change their way of life. I admire this greatly and stand with them. I especially wish to make special mention of Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, whom I greatly admire and respect. It is thanks to Rabbi Hofstedter and his vision some many years ago that out of the darkness and ashes of the Holocaust, the largest Torah organization in the world was conceived.
The celebration this past week in New Jersey was so large that it had to be expanded to three venues: the Prudential Center, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Newark Symphony Hall. Despite recent acts of hatred meant to sow more hatred and fear, tickets sold out in record numbers, prompting the need for securing two additional venues.
THE NORTHEASTERN area of the United States, which is home to the nation’s greatest percentage of Jews, has also recently been rocked by several antisemitic incidents. In early December, a gunman killed four people in a kosher grocery store in Jersey City. During the final days of Hanukkah, a man entered a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, and stabbed several celebrants. New York City has seen a marked increase in antisemitic incidents, from vandalized Jewish cemeteries to Jews being randomly assaulted on the streets.
Nevertheless, my Jewish neighbors are not hiding, though some people have advised them to do so. They are remaining proud and open, showing that they will not allow fear to alter them, their beliefs or their actions.
This message is well in line with Dirshu’s message as well. Through Dirshu, hundreds of thousands of Jewish men around the world study Jewish scripture and teachings. This in turn makes them more connected to the community, to God and to their families.
I first became aware of Dirshu a few years ago through its outreach arm’s Day of Jewish Unity. Each year, Dirshu’s outreach arm, Acheinu, organizes the Day of Jewish Unity to encourage people globally – Jewish and otherwise – to come together and pray for peace.
Additionally, all participants are asked to refrain from gossip and to really consider the impact their words can have on the world, all in line with the teachings of a rabbi named “Chofetz Chaim” (“desires life”).
The Day of Jewish Unity is about peace, kindness and civility. It is a reminder that hatred can never make the world better, and that civility, even in the face of disagreement, is a virtue.
As someone who has been involved in politics and heavily criticized by both sides of the aisle, I know how powerful words are. I appreciate the Day of Jewish Unity’s message of civility, both because it is a message I deeply want conveyed to my detractors, and because it is a message that I myself sometimes have a difficult time embodying.
Dirshu teaches that regardless of the struggles you endure, the cruelty you face or the doubts you experience you must fight to keep your integrity. Your moral compass should always point north, even when the compasses of those around you point elsewhere. Plaudits are due to Rabbi Hofstedter for his vision, continued leadership and commitment to spreading the light of Judaism around the world.
The writer is an American financier and entrepreneur who served as White House director of communications.