Flickr photo by Ze'ev Barkan

Ask A Jew: Why Does Anti-Semitism Exist?

What questions do you have about Judaism? Submit them online, or fill out the form below. 

Why does anti-Semitism exist?

SPO_Ask-a-Jew-ad_042114There are many different possible answers to this question. I’m going to focus on one.

At the first Passover seder this year, this very question was posed. There were a number of different responses, but the one that struck me as the best explanation came from one of my daughters, “Because we’re different.”

In the vast majority of places and times, Jews have been different from those around us. We practice religion differently. Our traditions can be mystifying to those who don’t understand. We often dress differently than others.

For some those differences lead to curiosity. They want to know. They ask questions.

For others, there is a fear of anything out of the ordinary. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to understand. They want things with which they’re familiar and nothing else. Anything outside their experience isn’t simply different, it’s wrong.

In various times and places, anti-Semites, rather than asking and trying to understand, have created horrible stories to explain what they don’t understand, blaming the Jews for all sorts of perceived offenses.

Blood libel has been charged through generations. Although consuming blood is strictly forbidden (part of the process for kosher meat involves salting it to remove all blood), Jews are accused of all sorts of murders so that we may use blood for various rituals. One popular one is that Jews use the blood of Christian children in matzah. This is not nor has it ever been true. Yet it persists. People do not understand various Passover traditions and obviously know little to nothing about Judaism, so they lash out against that which they do not understand.

Ritual hand washing lead to blaming Jews for the bubonic plague. Traditional Jews wash their hands several times a day including before all meals. This was uncommon in the 14th century. So fewer Jews died of the bubonic plague in Europe than their non-Jewish neighbors. When Christian neighbors noticed this, they blamed the illness on the Jews. Some said they were sorcerers causing the illness. Others accused Jews of poisoning the water.  There were riots and murders as a result.

Nazi propaganda played up those differences. Images contrasted the dark big-nosed Jew in stereotypical garb against the tall blonde  German and blamed the Jews for everything from creating disease to Germany’s downfall to plotting to take over the world.

From religious beliefs, to ethnicity, to language, to clothing, Jews are different. For many, this just is. We can co-exist peacefully side-by-side. For others, this is seen as wrong and threatening. Baseless hatred festers because we are different and anti-Semites don’t want to understand.

Check Also

video camera

Should Cameras Be Allowed in the Kohberger Courtroom?

Americans have a right to justice and, often, the only way people can see it happen is if a local court will allow cameras into the courtroom for a major case. Yes, one does need to balance the right to a fair trial and due process with the First Amendment and the citizen’s right to public information.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dustin Stum

“In his public and private writings, Herzl explained that anti-Semitism is not an aberration, but rather a natural response by non-Jews to alien Jewish behavior and attitudes. Anti-Jewish sentiment, he said, is not due to ignorance or bigotry, as so many have claimed. Instead, he concluded, the ancient and seemingly intractable conflict between Jews and non-Jews is entirely understandable, because Jews are a distinct and separate people, with interests that are different from, and which often conflict with, the interests of the people among whom they live.”
An article written by Mark Weber for the Institute For Historical Review entitled “Anti-Semitism: Why Does It Exist? And Why Does it Persist”

Neal Schindler

“…Jews are a distinct and separate people, with interests that are different from, and which often conflict with, the interests of the people among whom they live.”

This reminds me of the claim that American Jews have dual loyalties and would ultimately choose Israel’s interests, or at least their own communities’, over America’s. This claim has been used often over the years to attack American Jews.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x