Outsmarting Antisemitism: Lesson 1

In Lesson 1, we learned that the Jewish people are an eternal people. History has shown that despite the pain and suffering that we have endured, the Jews and Judaism always survive and thrive. Recognizing this is an important step toward feeling optimistic about our people and about our future.

To be realistic means to not lose sight of the fact that we are living in one of the best eras for Jews, and we should be thankful for that. For the first time in millennia, the vast majority of Jews do not live under regimes that persecute Jews. And in some countries, while individual acts of antisemitism have risen, the data also show that fewer people overall harbor antisemitic sentiments than previously.

We discovered the ultimate Jewish answer to anxiety: bitachon. Placing our trust in G-d triggers the opening of channels for additional revealed goodness.

The Torah teaches us that the success of any of our endeavors comes from G-d’s providence and blessing. G-d instructs us, however, to create a “garment” through which His blessings can operate in disguise. Accordingly, our efforts to engage in the logical methods of protecting ourselves are inseparable from our efforts to secure G-d’s protection. In the Purim story, Queen Esther recognized this, and she therefore prioritized being worthy of G-d’s protection over being attractive to Ahasuerus

Outsmarting Antisemitism: Lesson 2

In lesson 2, we learned that the absurd and contradictory claims of antisemites have persisted for millennia. Attempting to refute these conspiracy theories may keep some people away from antisemitism, but it has proven to be a futile endeavor against hard-core haters.

Much has been said about the root cause of antisemitism. One approach sees it resulting from an inner void due to the lack of a true sense of purpose in life. The Jews represents a commitment to living for a higher purpose and dedication to the mission given to humanity by the world’s Creator. Antisemites wish to obliterate their inner emptiness that they are reminded of when encountering the Jew.

Jews and other minorities cannot be expected to be bifurcated people, severing themselves from their identities in the public sphere. For a minority to have rights in a given place means that it can have a public presence. Being open about our Jewish identity benefits Jews and other minorities.

A Jewish explanation for antisemitism must allow for the possibility of change, because the Jewish prophets insisted in G-d’s name that antisemitism will eventually cease altogether. We can reduce antisemitism by teaching the world to avoid an inner void by embracing G-d’s mission for all of humanity.

Outsmarting Antisemitism: Lesson 3

In lesson 3, we learned that antisemitism seeks legitimacy from the most prestigious authority of any given era. At present, this authority is the pursuit of human rights. Consequently, many of today’s antisemites focus overwhelmingly on Israel and accuse it of being the ultimate violator of human rights.

When Israel (a) is demonized, (b) is judged with a double standard, or (c) its existence is delegitimized, the challenges expose themselves as an expression of antisemitism.

When antisemites refrain from asserting that they seek to annihilate Jewry but merely take issue with specific Jewish beliefs or practices, claiming them to be barbaric, Jews can be tempted to join the fight against their fellow Jews, believing they are saving Jews rather than hurting them.

There are several arguments for why Jews need, and have a right to, Israel. Most crucial is the Torah’s oft-reiterated reminder that G-d gave the Jews the Land of Israel as an eternal inheritance. The deeper our appreciation of this reality, and the more we educate the next generation about its implications, the more support we will nourish toward the Land of Israel. Such an approach can desirably influence the wider audience, but the most vital audience is our Jewish brothers and sisters.

To support Torah and G-d-based reasoning, it is necessary to create an environment that cherishes the Torah and nurtures faith. It is, therefore, critical to provide a robust Jewish education to ourselves and to the next generation.

Jews are a nation not because of our Land but because of our Torah. Nevertheless, the Land is important to the Torah’s vision for the world inasmuch as it embodies the Jewish mission on earth: to infuse physicality with holiness.

Outsmarting Antisemitism: Lesson 4

The Torah’s narrative of Jacob and Esau suggests that, by employing the right words and deeds, we can influence those we deem to be against us. Accordingly, the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yocha’i traveled to Rome to win concessions for the Jewish community, establishing a model followed by countless others, most famously, the European “court Jews” of the early modern period. These Jews did not feel inferior while conducting diplomatic missions. They knew that the Jewish future depended on G-d and that their job was to generate a garment behind which G-d could conceal His blessings. A firm belief that they were in G-d’s hands inspired in them a sense of pride.

According to modern neuroscience, brains are built of multiple parts that weigh in concerning different choices, each part competing to control the single output channel of behavior. This explains why an individual with Jewish friends can nevertheless carry out a drunken tirade against Jews. Conversely, it explains why Jews can gain assistance from unlikely sources.

Today, we are finally able to campaign publicly against those who oppose us. However, it is often counterproductive to publicly brand individuals as enemies or antisemites. Slow to shame and quick to engage is still an effective route. We must do everything possible to condition society to bring out the best in people rather than their more sinister elements. In the sphere of education, this means promoting an approach that is not restricted to acquiring information, but rather includes proper character traits, self-discipline, and the awareness that all humans are created to actively generate goodness in their environments.