News & Commentary

Anti-Semitism Wounds Us All

People in Jerusalem take part in the "March of the Nations" March 15 in which Christians from around the world demonstrate against anti-Semitism. (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters) See ANTI-SEMITISM-LETTER May 17, 2018.

Anti-Semitism is rising in the United States and worldwide. Last November, the US bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs released a document denouncing “any rhetoric which seeks to demonize or dehumanize the Jewish people or Judaism as a religious tradition.” On November 13, 2019, Pope Francis said, “Persecuting Jews is neither human nor Christian.”

In February, the American Jewish Committee reported that 41 percent of Jewish Americans felt less safe here than they did in 2022. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 2,717 cases of US harassment, vandalism, or assault in 2021, an increase of 34 percent from 2020. This number is the highest since the ADL began tracking these statistics in 1979. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Anti-Semitic hate groups seek to racialize Jewish people and vilify them as the manipulative puppet masters behind an economic, political, and social scheme to undermine White people.”

The October 27, 2018, shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue complex killed 11 people; the April 27, 2019, shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, killed one person. Four hostages were taken in January 2022 at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas (one was released, and the other three escaped).

A 2021 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hatred noted that 714 anti-Semitic posts were reported to the five largest social media companies; in 80 percent of cases, they were not removed. Increased numbers of Jewish synagogues, temples, and cemeteries have been targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti. Earlier this year, a northeastern Ohio couple with 2,300 Internet followers posted pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic materials for homeschooling parents. Anti-Semitic slogans have appeared at political rallies and on signs at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol. Cases of anti-Semitism are also increasing internationally.

Speak Up, Take Action

Motivated by religion or by concern for basic human decency, people need to:

• speak up and challenge anti-Semitic remarks they hear,
• object to anti-Semitic statements in print, broadcast, or digital media,
• visit a synagogue or Jewish temple,
• educate themselves about anti-Semitism in their area, and
• join with others through civic, ecumenical, or interreligious groups such as those already mentioned and similar organizations.

In extreme cases of social injustice, the legal maxim “Silence implies consent” applies.

State of Israel Can Still be Recognized

None of the text above suggests that any criticism of the State of Israel represents anti-Semitism. If it did, what should we make of the public protests by thousands of Jews in Israel against a proposed law allowing the Knesset (national legislature) by simple majority to overturn a ruling by that country’s Supreme Court? Over the years, many Jewish people have taken out in US newspapers full-page ads opposing a specific proposal or action by Israel’s government.

The Holy See and the United Nations have supported a “two-country” policy for Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. We can neither fail to challenge the anti-Semitism clearly growing in the United States and worldwide nor deny where the truth leads us—regardless of who disapproves of such honesty. In the long run, we all become whatever we choose to be.

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