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Shemini: Making Sense of Antisemitism. March 30, 2019

Rabbi Konigsburg

ג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן הוּא אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּרָ ה’ לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ…
Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord meant when he said: Through those near to me I show Myself holy….
Consider:
It’s hard to read the news these days without encountering evidence of a significant rise in antisemitism. In Alsace, France, gravestones are defaced with swastikas a day after members of the “yellow vest” group hurl insults and threats at a prominent Jewish intellectual during a rally in Paris. In Britain, several Labor MP’s resign from the party in protest against its failure to root out … prejudice against Jews by … party leader Jeremy Corbyn. … Here in America, a Muslim congresswoman is pressured to apologize for an attack on the Israel lobby that feature well-known antisemitic stereotypes—and Bernie Sanders offers her his support. What’s going on? Should Jews be worried in this country, as many are in Europe? Why are we seeing and hearing antisemitic incidents, threats, and verbal assaults that Jews of my generation never expected to witness again in our lifetimes? …The torch-light parades outside the synagogue in Charlottesville in August 2017 cannot be ignored…Antisemitism seems to be a fact of life that will not leave Jews in peace, even in America, for some time to come. What shall we do—and not do? Three lessons are to my mind especially crucial for understanding the prejudice against Jews that we see in America today and for calibrating the most proper and effective Jewish response.
 
First: as always, hatred of Jews has multiple causes, and so must be addressed on multiple fronts. One venerable element in the modern arsenal of antisemitism, sounded loud and clear again in recent months, is economic resentment of Jewish influence, prominence, and success in business and finance.  …A related form of antisemitism, now as always, is political: Jews are alleged to wield too much power, or to wield it
secretly or mysteriously; we are said to maintain “dual loyalties” to America and Israel, or America and the Jewish people…And it is essential that we know—and teach our children—that these claims about Jews are false…
Second: Jews must not allow our people or our tradition to be blamed for antisemitism, as we have been so often in the past…  Jewish students must understand that the number of Jews in Congress, disproportionate to our share in the American population, is not evidence of “conspiracy” or “world domination.” Nor is the number of Jews in the financial sector, more disproportionate still. Support for Israel by the US government, which has held steady for the past half-century over Republican and Democratic administrations and congressional majorities alike, is based in shared ideals and interests, not in “Jewish money.” Objectionable Israeli policies or governments do not justify the charge—made against no other country—that it has no right to exist. ...  We should certainly not cower in fear that success, influence, and privilege will lead to restriction of our liberties.
Let’s maintain perspective: respond in measured fashion to verbal or physical attacks. We should by no means discount progress made in the past or despair of progress that can be made in the future. We should never forget that Jews have allies in other communities, need those allies, and need to stand by other groups in their time of need, both because it is the right thing to do and so that those groups will stand by us. …
That is the third major lesson to be drawn from Jewish history, one that points to what to me is the most important effort required in the face of antisemitism. We must do our best to make sure that Jews do not run from Jewish commitment, or seek to hide their Jewishness, lest they be marked literally or figuratively with the yellow star or identified with the God of the “Old Testament,” or vilified for their loyalty to Judaism or to God. … Jews should not choose Judaism in order to defeat the enemies of Judaism or the Jewish people. Antisemitism must not stand at the center of Jewish belief and practice. That stance will quickly prove ineffective. 
Jews should take hold of Torah—and hold onto it for dear life—because the Torah teaches a profound and joyful path through life, a proven source of Community and Meaning, a path of great wisdom that has made and continues to make everlasting contributions to the world.  That is why Am Yisrael Chai— “the Jewish People lives,” where other nations and civilizations of the past do not - and will be around for a long time to come.  …  There is so much to celebrate, so many reasons for pride, so much joy and meaning to be had in Jewish life—all of which constitute the strongest defense against anti-Semites that we can deploy.   [By Dr. Arnold M. Eisen , Chancellor; Professor of Jewish Thought; JTS. Making Sense of Antisemitism; Blog “On My Mind” Posted on March 21, 2019]
Think About It:
1.       How does Anti-Semitism effect your view of Judaism? Does it change the way you practice your faith?
2.       Why is being called “the people of the Old Testament” offensive?
3.       Do you think that everyone is an Anti-Semite in their heart, or do we have people who are truly our allies?
4.       Have you experienced Anti-Semitism?  What did you do about it?
 
Teaching:     
During the 1930’s, when Jews were persecuted for no valid reason, Einstein once said, “If my theory of relativity is proved successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will claim me as a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will say I am a Jew.”

 

 

Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780