The Root Of Anti-Semitism

by Christine Ege, Associate National Director, March of Remembrance TX

“The speech of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the speech of the wicked is a cover for violence.” Proverbs 10:11 (The Complete Jewish Bible © David H. Stern)

Although my words may initially serve to educate others, report on an event, or even explain my position on a given subject, those words also reveal much about the state of my own heart and mind. In fact, my words are truth-tellers regarding my attitudes and opinions. 

Specifically, words express my personal convictions, including my attitudes toward other people. If I regard someone else as inferior or unworthy of respect, that negative assessment will ultimately manifest in corresponding words and actions. Extreme dislike of entire groups of individuals based on their racial or ethnic classification is called racism. Anti-Semitism is a variant of racism that includes religious prejudice. 

According to Rabbi Kalman Packouz, anti-Semitism is an especially pervasive form of racism. 

Anti-Semitism is unique amongst the hatreds in the world in a combination of four aspects: 1) Longevity: it's been around a long time; 2) Universality: virtually everywhere in the world; 3) Intensity: it's expressed in a particularly virulent manner; 4) Confusion: there is surprisingly little agreement on why people hate the Jews.

(from the Aish HaTorah Shabbat Shalom Fax written by Rabbi Kalman Packouz)

Do I want my words to bring life to others? If so, I need to search my heart and ask G-d to cleanse me of any wrong attitudes or prejudices against anyone, as G-d made everyone in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Perhaps I have valid reasons to dislike someone from a particular group of people; perhaps their grandfather defrauded my uncle, or perhaps that person’s son mistreated my child at school. However, if I allow hatred, resentment, or a desire for vengeance to fester, those attitudes eventually will express themselves in my words and actions—as hatred, scorn, prejudice, indifference, or even violence against that person or group of people.

 

Whenever I usurp G-d’s role in judgment of another person, or when I regard another as somehow inferior or unworthy of honor, I have reduced him or her to an object. In devaluing another, I effectively de-personalize and de-humanize someone made in His image. The objectification of others lies at the root of anti-Semitism, as objectifying someone means refusing to acknowledge that person was created in the image of G-d and is a person of intrinsic value. Devaluing others reduces them to “things” rather than people.

 

In the case of the Jews, G-d’s chosen people, it is vital that we examine our hearts and ask G-d to bring our attitudes into alignment with His Word. If not, anti-Semitism will flourish and become evident in our words and actions. I certainly desire that my speech be a fountain of life, for in blessing the Jews, I am blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). We all are responsible to steward our own hearts; the question is, will we do that consistently and well?