Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Why the Jews?
The outpouring of love and support for Jews following the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings has deeply touched me. I’m not surprised by it, but the reminder of the inclusiveness in our community is one more tribute to Ricochet. In one of the many posts I read, someone asked, “Why have the Jews always been treated this way?” It may have been a rhetorical question, but I took it at face value and decided to share my views about the reasons for anti-Semitism.
It’s important to say at the start that there is no way to provide every explanation for anti-Semitism:
Perhaps the most striking facet about Jew-hatred is its irrationality. There are as many reasons for hating Jews as there are people. Everything that upsets, hurts, or displeases people they often attribute to the Jews. Jews have been blamed for manipulating the media to their needs, usury, blood libels of various forms, well poisoning, dominating slave trade, disloyalty to their host countries, organ harvesting and AIDS spreading.
In addition, the Jews are not the only group that experiences hatred of others. You only need to look at the list of 20th and 21st genocides to see that the Jews are not uniquely victims of hatred.
The Jews have endured as a people and religion, however, longer than any other group, and have been on the receiving end of loathing and violence for a very long time:
Between the years 250 CE and 1948 CE — a period of 1,700 years — Jews have experienced more than eighty expulsions from various countries in Europe — an average of nearly one expulsion every twenty-one years. Jews were expelled from England, France, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia and seventy-one other countries.
The reasons for these rejections vary, but here are a few:
Economic reasons: Even though Jews as a whole were often among the poorest people in any given population, they also included people who were financially successful. Part of the reason for their success was because Jews were strong advocates of education in their families; they also were unable to own land in many countries and therefore developed a reputation as moneylenders, a profession open to them. As a result, they were seen making profits on the backs of others by charging interest (although Jews were not permitted to charge interest to other Jews).
Deicide: Historically the Jews were blamed for killing Jesus. In 2011, however, Pope Benedict VI declared that the Jewish people were not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. Nevertheless, there are Christians who hold to this belief and hold all Jews responsible for killing Jesus.
Outsiders: Many people regard Jews as outsiders for many reasons, particularly their Jewish practices and in some cases, their appearance and clothing. Jewish efforts to assimilate were not successful, however, as we saw in the actions of Nazi Germany.
Despised Race: Calling the Jews a race is incorrect; Jews are represented in most races of the world and are not exclusively any race. Not only that, anyone can convert to Judaism.
Chosen People: In spite of the Jews being labeled as elitists for their designation as a chosen people, that call from G-d is not always easy. “Chosen” speaks to the command by G-d that we are to bring the Noahide Laws to the rest of the world: not to worship idols, not to curse G-d, to establish courts of justice, not to commit murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, and not to eat flesh torn from a living animal. Many of us live out these laws simply through our own example; it is a great responsibility, not to be taken lightly.
The most recent attacks on Jews come from the hatred of Israel and Zionism. There are some who say that Judaism and Zionism can’t be conflated, but for all intents and purposes to our enemies, they are the same.
For another description of the reasons Jews are hated, you might want to view this video.
All of these reasons could, of course, be listed in more detail, depending on the time period and the civilization in which Jews have lived.
Can anything be done to eradicate anti-Semitism? I think not, although there are many things that can be done to help protect and defend Jews, by Jews themselves, by their countries and communities. But this is one reason why I think it will persist:
A conviction that Jews are responsible for all the problems and must therefore fix them implies that anti-Semitism does not arise during crises because Jews are easy scapegoats, as some believe. Quite the contrary, in people‘s eyes Jews are indeed the perpetrators. When things are fine people let Jews be. But when troubles ensue, the Jews are blamed for causing it. Evidently, willingly or unwillingly, Jews never stopped being the chosen people—chosen to fix the world. And the reason why there is anti-Semitism is very simply that the world is still not fixed.
And so it is.Published in Religion & Philosophy
Indeed. Also, thank you for your explanation. I still think it’s a huge question that we all want answered, about when G-d acts or intervenes, and when He doesn’t. Much to ponder.
One of the best insights I’ve seen on this comes from George Gilder, which he explores in his book, The Israel Test. He did a Prager University video about the anti-Semitic response to Israel in particular.
That the Jewish people are most consistently highly functioning people in history is unmistakable, which leaves the world’s non-Jews with a choice: Respond with admiration and emulation, or respond with envy and resentment. The anti-Semites go with the latter.
Gilder was (probably still is) interviewed on Dennis’ show. The man is brilliant. I caught him on Mark Levin’s show recently, too. I love when bright thinkers can clearly speak to the regular guy.
Yes! It is a challenge, indeed. Most bright thinkers end up talking to an echo chamber of the select priesthood.
Sort of like the Navy SEALs.
Just curious, why do you omit the “O” from the word God? “G-d”? That’s certainly not AP Stylebook advised.
In order not to take G-d’s name in vain, orthodox Jews typically avoid writing it, even in languages other than Hebrew.
They’ll say it, but not write it?
We’re not commanded to spell it that way in English; it’s another way to acknowledge G-d’s holiness, even in English.
I’ve long been familiar with the practice of leaving the vowels out of the written name, thus YHWH. But “God” is not God’s name, is it?
Neither is YHWH. Formal Hebrew is written without vowels anyway. Technically, you could write Yahweh and you won’t be struck by lightning. In Hebrew, the letters are yud-hey-vav-hey, and are unpronounceable and are often represented by only two of the letters.
Interesting mapping of cultural lacunae in the comments. I’ve been familiar with the writing convention for at least the past 40 years. Some people used to do the same with profane (not scatological or obscene) words. It suggested a certain caution in invoking heavenly or infernal attention.
We tend to say “Hashem” which means “The name”. And we avoid saying the names in Hebrew except in prayer or quoting. Even so, we NEVER speak out YKVK – and those who do set off subliminal alarms among orthodox Jews.
I didn’t know that about YHWH. Would you be willing to explain?
I had forgotten about Hebrew not having vowels. But I have read that early Greek didn’t either. I presume the consonants were good enough as an aid to memory if you already had some knowledge of the text. Sort of like (at another level of representation) the way written words in English can give you some clues as to how the words are pronounced, even if they are not a complete representation of the sounds.
Different names have different power and import. These letters in Hebrew are NEVER pronounced as they are spelled – we use a more common name for G-d instead.
See @iwe‘s comment below. Also, Hebrew also does have marks (I know there’s a word for them) that are placed under the letters of words in general, so it’s easier for us novices to pronounce them.