Monday, December 24, 2007

On Antisemitism

An excellent essay on Antisemitism from the Chief Rabbi of the UK.  With thanks to Felix.

We face a new kind of hatred

15 November 2007

By By Sir Jonathan Sacks

On January 27, 2000, heads of state or senior representatives of 44 governments met in Stockholm to commit themselves to a continuing programme of Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism. Barely two years later, synagogues and Jewish schools in France and Belgium were being firebombed and Jews were being attacked in the streets.

The distinguished Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, advised Jews not to wear yarmulkas in the street. The French Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut wrote: “The hearts of the Jews are heavy. For the first time since the war, they are afraid.” Shmuel Trigano, professor of sociology at the University of Paris, openly questioned whether there was a future for Jews in France. Never again had become ever again.

On February 28, 2002, I gave my first speech on the new antisemitism. Never before had I spoken on the subject. I had grown up without a single experience of antisemitism. I believed, and still do, that the whole enterprise of basing Jewish identity on memories of persecution was a mistake. The distinguished Holocaust historian Lucy Dawidowicz reached the same conclusion at the end of her life. She warned of the danger of a whole generation of children growing up knowing about the Greeks and how they lived, the Romans and how they lived, the Jews and how they died. I wrote Radical Then, Radical Now, specifically to focus Jewish identity away from death to life, suffering to celebration, grief to joy.

The return of antisemitism, after 60 years of Holocaust education, interfaith dialogue and antiracist legislation, is a major event in the history of the world. Far-sighted historians like Bernard Lewis and Robert Wistrich had been sounding the warning since the 1980s. Already in the 1990s, Harvard literary scholar Ruth Wisse argued that antisemitism was the most successful ideology of the 20th century. German fascism, she said, came and went. Soviet communism came and went. Antisemitism came and stayed.

Click here to read on


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