With everything going on in the news today, it’s easy to forget about the struggles that don’t get media attention. This year’s rise in antisemitism and anti-semitic violence is one of them.
On the one hand, that should come as no surprise, really. Violent attacks like the Beth Israel hostage crisis or the Tree of Life synagogue shooting only make all too plain how quickly antisemitism becomes tragically violent.
But on the other hand, we all too often overlook how ubiquitous and how virulent antisemitism truly is. Even humanitarian tragedies like the war in Ukraine are not free of antisemitic hatred. As the ADL reports, this war has fueled numerous and dangerous antisemitic conspiracy theories. War itself is not enough to quell the antisemitic imagination and protect Jews from hatred.
That is why we need to view antisemitism, not as something rare, but as something all too common. In fact, antisemitism is a daily threat, one that infects and affects some aspect of almost every system or issue that impacts the Jewish community. Accordingly, we need daily tools and daily practices to combat it — especially in our churches, where antisemitism should be most unwelcome and where the pain of antisemitism gone unchecked can often be the greatest.
But here’s the thing: a daily battle like this is won in hearts and minds. We have to do the work of changing how we think, perceive, feel, and speak. We have to build bridges.
It starts with education about what antisemitism is. Antisemitism is nothing new; it has a history, and it has contexts of origin and practice. Countering modern-day antisemitism requires learning that history. It will make possible greater compassion with the suffering experienced by antisemitism’s victims, and it will empower us to know why antisemitism is the grave evil that it is.
This education starts with you, but it extends through your family, church, and school; it’s both a community and an individual issue.
This education can continue through relationships — most of all between the Jewish community and other communities, especially the Christian community.
Both Christians and those who are not Jewish need to create friendships and connections with their Jewish communities. These friendships aren’t just bonds of empathy and care that can heal from the harm done by antisemitism; they can also prevent antisemitism from spreading.
That’s because empathetic friendships increase both the support we can give to those who are suffering and our sensitivity to forms of hate speech and antisemitism we might otherwise not have noticed. And since friendships can be built in countless ways, there are innumerable practical steps that church communities can take to accomplish this.
Some church families, for example, may want to reach out to Jewish families they know and ask to celebrate traditional Jewish practices together, like the Seder meal that was recently held during Passover. Friendships between religious communities are always strongest when there is a real, lived understanding of each other’s traditions and values. This understanding will make true allyship possible.
But while education and relationships are the foundation of the fight against antisemitism, advocacy is the conclusion.
Standing with and standing up for the Jewish community is the unconditional imperative in the fight against antisemitism. As Christians, as churches, as a society, we must reach out to the Jewish community, defend Jews against antisemitic hate, and express support for Jews during the battle against the evil of antisemitism.
Antisemitism may never be eliminated, but it can be silenced, it can be curtailed and it can be prevented. And most of all, its hurts and harms can be healed. But it is incumbent upon us to take the action necessary to make that possible.
Why does Judaism matter and how is it connected to Christianity? Learn more here.