What does it mean to be antisemitic? Can Jews do better in fighting against it?
This is a complex issue, and a difficult one. It requires looking outside and inside our community. Eradicating hate is a group effort. Hillel would say, “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?”
Let’s begin in Germany, right before Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933. People liked his charisma and his direct way of speaking. Jews even felt he was good for Germany’s growth economically. And yet, from the beginning, Hitler’s speeches showed signs of hate.
Why did many Jews overlook those signs? Why did so many non-Jews who loved their Jewish neighbors dismiss those signs? Was it for personal gain, or simply a false sense of security?
Of course, no one ever could have imagined the atrocities that occurred. The blame lies directly in the hands of Hitler and those who participated. What’s important, though, is that we understand how Hitler gained his power.
Jews are not to blame, but what would have happened if German Jews had taken the hate speech seriously? What if they had listened to the early warnings?
We must be cognizant of why we, as Jews, tolerated the hate talk. Excused it. Defended it. And supported Hitler. We must be honest with ourselves. Are we still doing it today? And if so, why?
I feel strongly that it’s important to sweat the small stuff. This means to take even the seemingly smallest of antisemitic comments seriously. We must learn to recognize hate speech. We must make sure we are represented, and never avoid taking a moment to educate.
I’ve been asked if I feel the propaganda about Israel is rooted in antisemitism. It’s a great question, and one that doesn’t have a simple answer.
Israel isn’t perfect. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a lot to answer for when it comes to the terrorist attacks. The government failed our people.
Regardless, I often wonder whether the manner in which Israel is represented around the world is anti-Israel, or actually anti-Jewish.
Here is a great question I recently heard: What is the difference between antisemitism and racism, transphobia, homophobia and all other forms of hate? Did you know the source of hate is the same no matter whom it is directed at?
Hate comes from a place of fear and a lack of knowledge. It’s about (chosen) ignorance and not wanting to learn. It’s about superiority and control. It’s about power.
And so I ask, why is hate speech allowed and tolerated in so many of our offices, schools, and most of all by our public figures, including our politicians? Why are we allowing it? What role do we play when we allow it?
Early Shabbat morning on Oct. 7, Israelis experienced a side of antisemitism that we hadn’t seen for generations. Terrorists attacked Israeli citizens in their homes, and at a concert for young people. They killed more than 1,000 people in the most heinous, barbaric ways. They tortured parents in front of children, and children in front of parents.
As Israelis begged for their lives, the terrorists laughed, thanked their god, and rejoiced as they kept murdering.
This type of antisemitism is one of the most frightening. It’s calculated. It is without mercy or value to life.
I am heartbroken by the rise of antisemitism I am seeing all over the United States. I’ve heard misinformation and a lack of knowledge of how a terrorist group functions and thinks. I’ve heard so little acknowledgement of what was done to the Israelis by Hamas and the justified retaliation.
Instead, I’m hearing hatred toward Israel.
We must understand that it can be hard to decipher whether the hatred toward Israel means also to all Jews. Even so, not recognizing the mass murders done to the Israelis by Hamas — and, instead, blaming Israel — is rooted in antisemitism. Let’s call it what it is.
The Holocaust did not begin at the gas chambers. It started long before, with hate speech. We must be vigilant and proactive the very second hate is spoken. We must do a better job of uniting with others who are targeted — particularly now, as the pain of antisemitism is real.
As our oppressors try to push us down, we have the power in numbers to lift one another up. This gives me hope.
We stand on the shoulders of generations of Jews who did not give up for us to be here today. We owe it to them — and the next generation — to do our part, and to do a better job. We must continue to shine our light to illuminate the path toward healing.
Jeshayahu “Shai” Beloosesky is the rabbi at Temple Avodah in Oceanside.