Yehuda Bauer, Israeli historian and scholar of the Holocaust, has suggested in recent years that the Jewish people add three more points to the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, and, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.1 Of course, nothing could be on par with the words God delivered to Moses, but Bauer’s point should not be lost. In the face of rising anti-Semitism around the world, here are nine ways to fight back.
1. Stay Informed on Current Events
Find a way to keep a pulse on the global Jewish community: download apps, subscribe to emails or newsletters, follow your local synagogues on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe for updates from Jewish news sources like The Times of Israel or The Jerusalem Post. In the words of the Talmud, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” or “All Israel is responsible for each other.” Choose to demonstrate your commitment to this charge by staying informed! You might miss opportunities to stand with the Jewish community if you aren’t keeping an eye on current events.
2. Include Non-Jews in the Conversation
If you are informed on the rising anti-Semitism around the world, you will be well equipped to discuss current events with your non-Jewish friends and colleagues. You are probably their best (and maybe only) resource for an inside perspective on the current Jewish experience.
Often it’s a simple lack of common understanding that makes the difference between a friend and a foe.
In April 2019, NPR’s "All Things Considered" featured an interview with a woman named Marnie Fienberg who started a program called “2 for Seder,” which encourages Jewish people to invite two non-Jews to every Passover seder as part of the fight against anti-Semitism. In this way, Fienberg hoped to create allies for the Jewish community through informing and building relationships with those outside.2
Passover is a great place to start, but there are also eight nights of Hanukkah, Shabbat dinners, and countless opportunities throughout the year to bring non-Jews into the Jewish experience. Often it’s a simple lack of common understanding that makes the difference between a friend and a foe.
3. Engage in Protest and Acts of Solidarity
In June of 2019, a study was released stating that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose by more than 70 percent in Germany in 2018.3 Felix Klein, Germany’s first anti-Semitism commissioner, told the German media, “I cannot recommend that Jews wear the kippah whenever and wherever they want in Germany, and I say this with regret.”4
The response? A call for all Germans to wear kippot in solidarity. One German tabloid took the protest so seriously that they published a link to a downloadable, printable kippah for readers to cut out and wear.5
There are plenty of opportunities to participate in grassroots protests like this. A number of mainstream publications, such as USA Today, The Miami Herald, and The Jerusalem Post, urged readers to take on AJC’s campaign #ShowUpForShabbat after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 and to #ShareShabbat, sponsored by Chabad.org after the Poway shooting in April. These are important moments to participate in, both on social media and in person, to stand in solidarity in the face of tragedy or hate.
4. Speak Up Against Everyday Acts of Anti-Semitism
Small moments of anti-Semitism in our day-to-day lives become normalized if they go unchallenged. You might be the only witness of a seemingly insignificant act of anti-Semitism - take this responsibility seriously.
In December 2018, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a survey examining discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the EU. They found that anti-Semitic harassment is now so common in Europe that it feels “trivial,” even to Jewish people.6
Rather than let these moments go by unnoticed, we must speak up. It’s important to challenge anti-Semitic comments, jokes, or actions. The perpetrator may simply be acting out of ignorance, but not saying anything - or laughing along - implies that you agree. If you don’t feel comfortable being confrontational, just try asking a question like, “I didn’t understand your comment. Could you explain?”
In the age of social media, speaking up can be as simple as 280 characters.
Contemplate adding your encounter to the overwhelming number of tweets using #FirstAntiSemiticExperience or post your experience on everydayantisemitism.com.7 Something as simple as a well-articulated, well-informed post on social media about your experience can make a lasting impact towards educating others. For better or worse, it’s where the majority of people get their information today and it offers unprecedented access to influential figures and powerful organizations. In the age of social media, speaking up can be as simple as 280 characters.
5. Report It
The 2018 FRA study found that anti-Semitic crimes are seldom reported, making the true statistics impossible to know. If you witness such an act, the very first thing to do after ensuring your safety and the safety of others is to report it to the proper law enforcement authorities. Then consider notifying the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors, tracks, and responds to anti-Semitism in America8, and if the incident occured on a college campus, contacting The AMCHA Initiative.9
Make sure your community is aware of the threat. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, speak with your local political leaders, and notify local synagogue and Jewish community leaders who might want to take precautions based on a recent crime or threat. It is also wise to inform other local leaders such as pastors, priests, or school principals, who play key roles in educating the community. After all, people can’t address something they haven’t heard about.
6. Check Your Own Biases
Genuine advocacy begins with the desire to love our neighbors as ourselves. As part of our process of fighting anti-Semitism, it’s important to look inward and examine if we have any biases toward specific communities or cultures.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Jewish texts are full of admonition to look inward before you try to fix the world around you, that what is in your heart is even more important than your actions. Yeshua famously taught his followers, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3, 5).
When we honestly assess and address our own biases, we will be in a better place to confront and fight those that are targeted at us as Jewish people.
7. Remember the Past
If we hope to build a better future, we must remember the past. Some ways are built into our calendars, like Holocaust Remembrance Day, or into our cities, like statues and memorials. Some are finding creative new ways to remember our past; in 2010, an Israeli Google employee named Adi Altschuler started Zikaron BaSalon, which literally translates to “memory in the living room.” These small groups invite Holocaust survivors to share their stories in intimate settings in homes around the world. In 2018 alone, more than 750,000 people participated, including Josh Turnil, Jews for Jesus France director, who leads the Paris chapter of Zikaron BaSalon. Find out how to host your own event at zikaronbasalon.org.
From Haman to Hamas, our people have witnessed God’s faithfulness and protection over and over again, and we must pass this legacy down to each generation. Our survival against all odds is even considered by some to be one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for God’s existence.
8. Talk to God About It
When the Scriptures command us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), “Jerusalem” poetically represents not just the limits of a city, but all Jewish people worldwide. Just as the Talmud charges us to be responsible for one another, it’s crucial to be in frequent prayer for the well-being and protection of our people.
In the wake of tragedy, the Mourner’s Kaddish points us to God as the keeper of our people. Even in the darkest moments, our people say together, “May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us and for all Israel. May He Who creates peace in His high heavens create peace for us and for all Israel, and say Amen.”10
9. Pursue Healing and Reconciliation
There are two natural and understandable reactions to the hate Jewish people have endured for centuries: to let the pain destroy us or to perpetuate the pain towards others. But neither of these brings lasting healing. We must oppose anti-Semitism in every form, but at the same time show God’s forgiveness, and call both ourselves and others to daily acts of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Yeshua taught his followers to “forgive those who sin against us,” just as we ask God to forgive us our own sins (Matthew 6:12). But he didn’t just teach loving your enemies, he endured a brutal death to offer reconciliation with God to all humanity, even those who opposed him.
God has seen all injustice. One day, all will be held accountable to Him. But there is hope for healing and forgiveness found here and now.
God has seen all injustice. One day, all will be held accountable to Him. But there is hope for healing and forgiveness found here and now, amidst our brokenness, through God’s transformative work in our hearts when we are reconciled to Him.
1. “Yehuda Bauer on the Holocaust,” Jewish Virtual Library, accessed July 14, 2019, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/yehuda-bauer-on-the-holocaust-2.
2. “As Part Of Her Fight Against Anti-Semitism, One Woman Is Inviting Non-Jews To Seder,” All Things Considered, NPR April 19, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/04/19/715266709/as-part-of-her-fight-against-anti-semitism-one-woman-is-inviting-non-jews-to-seder.
3. “Number of antisemitic acts of violence rose by more than 70% in Germany last year, report reveals,” The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, June 26, 2019, https://antisemitism.org.il/149182/.
4. Kate Connolly, “All Germans urged to wear kippah in protest against antisemitism,” The Guardian, May 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/31/germans-urged-wear-kippah-protest-antisemitism.
6. “Experiences and perceptions of antisemitism - Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU,” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, December 2018, https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/2nd-survey-discrimination-hate-crime-against-jews.
10. Rabbi Barry A. Budoff, “Mourner’s Kaddish,” in A Messianic Jewish Siddur for Shabbat, ed. Rabbi Kirk Gliebe (Skokie: Devar Emet Messianic Publications, 2011), 103.