A Letter to My Daughter Kim before she embarks on the March of the Living

Standard

DEAREST KIM,
THE MARCH OF THE LIVING IS AN EXTRAORDINARY, UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE. WITH THOUSANDS OF JEWISH PEOPLE, FROM COUNTRIES ALL AROUND THE WORLD, YOU WILL SHARE IN A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE WHEN THEY MARCH THREE KILOMETERS FROM AUSCHWITZ TO BIRKENAU, THE LARGEST CONCENTRATION CAMP COMPLEX BUILT BY THE NAZIS DURING WORLD WAR II. THE MARCH COMMEMORATES YOM HASHOAH, HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY. YOU WITH BE THERE – ALONG WITH OVER 8,000 PARTICIPANTS WHO WILL BE PART OF THIS HISTORIC EVENT.
AS ONE OF THE MARCHERS, YOU WILL RETRACE THE STEPS OF THE MARCH OF DEATH, THE ACTUAL ROUTE WHICH COUNTLESS NUMBERS OF OUR PEOPLE WERE FORCED TO TAKE ON THEIR WAY TO THE GAS CHAMBERS AT BIRKENAU. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE JEWISH HISTORY WHERE IT WAS MADE. THIS TIME, HOWEVER, THERE WILL BE A DIFFERENCE. IT WILL BE A MARCH OF THE LIVING WITH THOUSANDS OF JEWISH YOUTH, LIKE YOURSELF, MARCHING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER. YOU WILL PARTICIPATE IN A MEMORIAL SERVICE AT ONE OF THE GAS CHAMBERS/CREMATORIA, IN BIRKENAU, WHICH WILL CONCLUDE WITH THE SINGING OF HATIKVAH, REAFFIRMING AM YISRAEL CHAI – THE JEWISH PEOPLE LIVE.

KADDISH IS A JEWISH PRAYER TO REMEMBER THE DEAD AND NORMALLY SAID BY MEN. IN THE ABSENCE OF A MALE MEMBER OF THE FAMILY WHEN YOU PLACE THE THREE JERUSALEM STONES WITH THE THREE BRANCHES OF YOUR FAMILY THAT WERE MURDERED IN THE HOLOCAUST SAY KADDISH OUT LOUD . SAY KADDISH FOR THE DRUES OF KRAKOW AND YOUR GREAT AUNT HADASAEAH THAT DIED IN BELZEC EXTERMINATION CAMP AND ALL THE OTHER DRUES COUSINS OF KRAKOW THAT DIED IN BELZEC,TREBLINSKA AND AUSCHWITZ .OVER 280 DRUES S OF KRAKOW RELATIONS DIED. THERE ARE NO KNOWN SURVIVORS.. SAY KADDISH FOR THE DRUES OF MAJZUGOLA NEAR VILNA WHO DIED IN THE VAIVARA AND AUSCHWITZ CAMP IF THEY WERE NOT MURDERED FIRST IN THE FOREST OF PANERIAI .THERE ARE NO KNOWN SURVIVORS . SAY KADDISH FOR THE SHABELSHOK/FIALKOV FAMILIES OF RIGA WHO WERE MURDERED BETWEEN 30TH NOVEMBER AND 8TH DECEMBER IN THE RUMBULA FOREST NEAR RIGA WITH 25,000 THOUSAND OTHER JEWS FROM LATVIA. SAY KADDISH FOR THE SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF YOUR GREAT GRANDMOTHER FREDA SHABELSTOK BAKER WHO DIED IN THE FORREST OF RUMBULA . SAY KADDISH FOR SARAH , ROBERT, MICHAEL, DAVID , GREGOR , RACHEL , LAZER, LEAH AND FREDRICH , FREDA AND ROSA SHABELSTOK’S OLDER SISTERS AND BROTHERS AND ALL THEIR CHILDREN AND EVEN GRANDCHILDREN . ALL WERE IN 1941 MARRIED WITH KIDS AND EVEN GRANDKIDS . NONE SURVIVED RUMBULA ( OVER 350 SHABELSTOK/ FIALKOV FAMILY MEMBERS WERE MURDERED AT RUMBULA. SAY KADDISH FOR ALL THE SHABELSTOK/FIALKOV/DRUES COUSINS AND THERE MUST HAVE BEEN HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS . NONE ARE KNOWN TO HAVE SURVIVED

SAY KADDISH IN TEARS AND THEN SCREAM … “WE SURVIVED AND ARE HERE NOW. AGAIN -NEVER EVER AGAIN” , אנחנו שרדנו והם כאן עכשיו – לעולם לא עוד יהיה שם שואה חוזרת

THOSE THAT SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST BUT DID NOT EXPERIENCE IT FIRST HAND:-
SHABELSKOK: FREDA AND HER YOUNGER ROSA . FREDA WAS IN UITENHAGUE ,SOUTH AFRICA MARRIED TO CHAIM BAKER AND ROSA, HER YOUNGER SISTER IN NORWAY TAKEN THERE BY THE DANISH RESISTANCE WITH MOST OF THE DANISH JEWS.THEY WERE THE YOUNGEST OF 11 SIBLINGS . ALL THE SIBLINGS WERE MARRIED WITH KIDS .

FIALKOV: TWIN BROTHERS MANNY ( MORDECHAI) AND JAY ( JOSEF) IN CAPE TOWN,SOUTH AFRICA . THEY WERE THE YOUNGEST OF 10 SIBLINGS ALL WERE MARRIED WITH KIDS.

DRUES: SAMUEL AND NAOMI IN CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA AND WILLIAM IN CHICAGO, USA SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST.. THE CHILDREN OF HADASEAH WHO DIED IN BELZEC, SURVIVED IN ISRAEL . THEY WERE FREDA AND HASHYA WHO MARRIED THE KURMAN BROTHERS , MAX AND CHAIM

CELEBRATE THE SHABELSTOK/ FIALKOV / DRUES SURVIVAL WHEN YOU MARCH FROM BIRKENAU TO AUSCHWITZ
XXX
DAD

REFERENCES

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/RUMBULA_MASSACRE

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/AUSCHWITZ_CONCENTRATION_CAMP

HTTP://WWW.JEWISHGEN.ORG/FORGOTTENCAMPS/CAMPS/AUSCHWITZENG.HTML

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/TREBLINKA_EXTERMINATION_CAMP

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/BELZEC_EXTERMINATION_CAMP

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/VILNA_GHETTO#LIQUIDATION

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/KADDISH

Advertisements

The Origin of almost all Jewish Ashkenazi Surnames .

Standard
jewish surname mapSlateRichard Andree’s 1881 map of the Jews of Central Europe.

Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.

In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair.

Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sara bat rivka), and they had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora.

Jews distrusted the authorities and resisted the new requirement. Although they were forced to take last names, at first they were used only for official purposes. Among themselves, they kept their traditional names. Over time, Jews accepted the new last names, which were essential as Jews sought to advance within the broader society and as the shtetles were transformed or Jews left them for big cities.

The easiest way for Jews to assume an official last name was to adapt the name they already had, making it permanent. This explains the use of “patronymics” and “matronymics.”

PATRONYMICS (son of …)

In Yiddish or German, “son” would be denoted by “son” or “sohn” or “er.” In most Slavic languages, like Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.”

For example: The son of Mendel took the last name Mendelsohn; the son of Abraham became Abramson or Avromovitch; the son of Menashe became Manishewitz; the son of Itzhak became Itskowitz; the son of Berl took the name Berliner; the son of Kesl took the name Kessler, etc.

MATRONYMICS (daughter of …)

Reflecting the prominence of Jewish women in business, some families made last names out of women’s first names: Chaiken — son of Chaikeh; Edelman — husband of Edel; Gittelman — husband of Gitl; Glick or Gluck — may derive from Glickl, a popular woman’s name as in the famous “Glickl of Hameln,” whose memoirs, written around 1690, are an early example of Yiddish literature.

Gold/Goldman/Gulden may derived from Golda; Malkov from Malke; Perlman — husband of Perl; Rivken — may derive from Rivke; Soronsohn—son of Sarah.

PLACE NAMES

The next most common source of Jewish last names is probably places. Jews used the town or region where they lived, or where their families came from, as their last name. As a result, the Germanic origins of most East European Jews is reflected in their names.

For example, Asch is an acronym for the towns of Aisenshtadt or Altshul orAmshterdam. Other place-based Jewish names include: Auerbach/Orbach; Bacharach; Berger (generic for townsman); Berg(man), meaning from a hilly place; Bayer — from Bavaria; Bamberger; Berliner, Berlinsky — from Berlin; Bloch (foreigner); Brandeis; Breslau; Brodsky; Brody; Danziger; Deutch/Deutscher — German;Drues ( Drus)… the estate of the Count ( Jewish) of Drues near Villi nus ( Vilna)  ,Dorf(man), meaning villager; Eisenberg; Epstein; Florsheim; Frankel — from the Franconia region of Germany; Frankfurter; Ginsberg; Gordon — from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin, for townsman; Greenberg; Halperin—from Helbronn, Germany; Hammerstein; Heller — from Halle, Germany; Hollander — not from Holland, but from a town in Lithuania settled by the Dutch; Horowitz, Hurwich, Gurevitch — from Horovice in Bohemia; Koenigsberg; Krakauer — from Cracow, Poland; Landau; Lipsky — from Leipzig, Germany; Litwak — from Lithuania; Minsky — from Minsk, Belarus; Mintz—from Mainz, Germany; Oppenheimer; Ostreicher — from Austria; Pinsky — from Pinsk, Belarus; Posner — from Posen, Germany; Prager — from Prague; Rappoport — from Porto, Italy; Rothenberg — from the town of the red fortress in Germany; Shapiro — from Speyer, Germany; Schlesinger — from Silesia, Germany; Steinberg; Unger — from Hungary; Vilner — from Vilna, Poland/Lithuania; Wallach—from Bloch, derived from the Polish word for foreigner; Warshauer/Warshavsky — from Warsaw; Wiener — from Vienna; Weinberg.

OCCUPATIONAL NAMES

Craftsmen/Workers

Ackerman — plowman; Baker/Boker — baker; Blecher — tinsmith; Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher; Cooperman — coppersmith; Drucker — printer; Einstein — mason; Farber — painter/dyer; Feinstein — jeweler; Fisher — fisherman; Forman — driver/teamster; Garber/Gerber — tanner; Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier; Goldstein — goldsmith; Graber — engraver; Kastner — cabinetmaker; Kunstler — artist; Kramer — storekeeper; Miller — miller; Nagler — nailmaker; Plotnick — carpenter; Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker; Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith; Shnitzer — carver; Silverstein — jeweler; Spielman — player (musician?); Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler; Wasserman — water carrier.

Merchants

Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer; Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer; Kaufman — merchant; Rokeach — spice merchant; Salzman — salt merchant; Seid/Seidman—silk merchant; Tabachnik — snuff seller; Tuchman — cloth merchant; Wachsman — wax dealer; Wechsler/Halphan — money changer; Wollman — wool merchant; Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant.

Related to tailoring

Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor; Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor, but from “needle”; Sher/Sherman — also tailor, but from “scissors” or “shears”; Presser/Pressman — clothing presser; Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver.

Medical

Aptheker — druggist; Feldsher — surgeon; Bader/Teller — barber.

Related to liquor trade

Bronfman/Brand/Brandler/Brenner — distiller; Braverman/Meltzer — brewer; Kabakoff/Krieger/Vigoda — tavern keeper; Geffen — wine merchant; Wine/Weinglass — wine merchant; Weiner — wine maker.

Religious/Communal

Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague; Cantor/Kazan/Singer/Spivack — cantor or song leader in shul; Feder/Federman/Schreiber — scribe; Haver — from haver (court official); Klausner — rabbi for small congregation; Klopman — calls people to morning prayers by knocking on their window shutters; Lehrer/Malamud/Malmud — teacher; Rabin — rabbi (Rabinowitz—son of rabbi); London — scholar, from the Hebrew lamden(misunderstood by immigration inspectors); Reznick — ritual slaughterer; Richter — judge; Sandek — godfather; Schechter/Schachter/Shuchter etc. — ritual slaughterer from Hebrew schochet; Shofer/Sofer/Schaeffer — scribe; Shulman/Skolnick — sexton; Spector — inspector or supervisor of schools.

PERSONAL TRAITS

Alter/Alterman — old; Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane; Erlich — honest; Frum — devout ; Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout; Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair; Gross/Grossman — big; Gruber — coarse or vulgar; Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler; Fried/Friedman—happy; Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall; Klein/Kleinman — small; Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch; Krauss — curly, as in curly hair; Kurtz/Kurtzman — short; Reich/Reichman — rich; Reisser — giant; Roth/Rothman — red head; Roth/Rothbard — red beard; Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome; Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion; Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e  intelligent; Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark ; Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump.

INSULTING NAMES

These were sometimes foisted on Jews who discarded them as soon as possible, but a few may remain:

Billig — cheap; Gans — goose; Indyk — goose; Grob — rough/crude; Kalb — cow.

ANIMAL NAMES

It is common among all peoples to take last names from the animal kingdom. Baer/Berman/Beerman/Berkowitz/Beronson — bear; Adler — eagle (may derive from reference to an eagle in Psalm 103:5); Einhorn — unicorn; Falk/Sokol/Sokolovksy — falcon; Fink — finch; Fuchs/Liss — fox; Gelfand/Helfand — camel (technically means elephant but was used for camel too); Hecht—pike; Hirschhorn — deer antlers; Karp — carp; Loeb — lion; Ochs— ox; Strauss — ostrich (or bouquet of flowers); Wachtel — quail.

HEBREW NAMES

Some Jews either held on to or adopted traditional Jewish names from the Bible and Talmud. The big two are Cohen (Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, Kaplan) and Levi (Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson). Others include: Aaron — Aronson, Aronoff; Asher; Benjamin; David — Davis, Davies; Ephraim — Fishl; Emanuel — Mendel; Isaac — Isaacs, Isaacson/Eisner; Jacob — Jacobs, Jacobson, Jacoby; Judah — Idelsohn, Udell,Yudelson; Mayer/Meyer; Menachem — Mann, Mendel; Reuben — Rubin; Samuel — Samuels, Zangwill; Simon — Schimmel; Solomon — Zalman.

HEBREW ACRONYMS

Names based on Hebrew acronyms include: Baron — bar aron (son of Aaron); Beck —bene kedoshim (descendant of martyrs); Getz — gabbai tsedek (righteous synagogue official); Katz — kohen tsedek (righteous priest); Metz — moreh tsedek (teacher of righteousness); Sachs, Saks — zera kodesh shemo (his name descends from martyrs); Segal — se gan levia (second-rank Levite).

OTHER HEBREW- and YIDDISH-DERIVED NAMES

Lieb means “lion” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names, including Liebowitz, Lefkowitz, Lebush, and Leon. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for lion — aryeh. The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah.

Hirsch means “deer” or “stag” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names, including Hirschfeld, Hirschbein/Hershkowitz (son of Hirsch), Hertz/Herzl, Cerf, Hart, and Hartman. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for gazelle: tsvi. The gazelle was the symbol of the tribe of Naphtali.

Taub means “dove” in Yiddish. It is the root of the Ashkenazic last name Tauber. The symbol of the dove is associated with the prophet Jonah.

Wolf is the root of the Ashkenazic last names Wolfson, Wouk, and Volkovich. The wolf was the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin.

Eckstein — Yiddish for cornerstone, derived from Psalm 118:22.

Good(man) — Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for “good”: tuviah.

Margolin — Hebrew for “pearl.”

INVENTED ‘FANCY SHMANCY’ NAMES

When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, “The resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty. It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic tendencies of German culture at that time.” These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirshenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree.

Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots:Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) — combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field).

Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover.

Jewish family names from non-Jewish languages included: Sender/Saunders — from Alexander; Kagan — descended from the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia; Kelman/Kalman — from the Greek name Kalonymous, the Greek translation of the Hebrew shem tov (good name), popular among Jews in medieval France and Italy; Marcus/Marx — from Latin, referring to the pagan god Mars.

Finally, there were Jewish names changed or shortened by immigration inspectors or by immigrants themselves (or their descendants) to sound more American, which is why “Sean Ferguson” was a Jew.

Let us close with a ditty:

And this is good old Boston;
The home of the bean and the cod.
Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots;
And the Cabots speak Yiddish, by God!

A version of this post originally appeared on Jewish Currents.

Bennett Muraskin is a contributing writer to Jewish Currents magazine and author of The Association of Jewish Libraries Guide to Yiddish Short Stories and Let Justice Well Up Like Water: Progressive Jews from Hillel to Helen Suzman, among other books.

NOW WATCH: This Midwestern Saying About Cheese Makes No Sense To The Rest Of America

The New Anti-Semitism

Standard

What it is and how to deal with it.

In January 2000, heads of state or senior representatives of 44 governments met in Stockholm to commit themselves to a continuing program of Holocaust remembrance and the fight against anti-Semitism. 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.

Basing Jewish identity on memories of persecution is a mistake.

In February 2002 I gave my first speech on the new anti-Semitism. Never before had I spoken on the subject. I had grown up without a single experience of anti-Semitism. 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 wroteRadical then, Radical now, specifically to focus Jewish identity away from death to life, suffering to celebration, grief to joy.

The return of anti-Semitism, 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 twentieth century. German fascism, she said, came and went. Soviet communism came and went. Anti-Semitism came and stayed.

It is wrong to exaggerate. We are not now where Jews were in the 1930s. Nor are Jews today what our ancestors were: defenseless, powerless and without a collective home. The State of Israel has transformed the situation for Jews everywhere. What is necessary now is simply to understand the situation and sound a warning. That is what Moses Hess did in 1862, Judah Leib Pinsker in 1882 and Theodor Herzl in 1896: 71, 51 and 37 years respectively before Hitler’s rise to power. To understand is to begin to know how to respond, with open eyes and without fear.

Today’s anti-Semitism is a new phenomenon, continuous with, yet significantly different from the past. To fathom the transformation, we must first define what anti-Semitism is. In the past Jews were hated because they were rich and because they were poor; because they were capitalists (Marx) and because they were communists (Hitler); because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they held tenaciously to a superstitious faith (Voltaire) and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing (Stalin).

Anti-Semitism mutates, defeating the immune system set up by cultures to protect themselves against hatred.

Anti-Semitism is not an ideology, a coherent set of beliefs. It is, in fact, an endless stream of contradictions. The best way of understanding it is to see it as a virus. Viruses attack the human body, but the body itself has an immensely sophisticated defense, the human immune system.

How then do viruses survive and flourish? By mutating. Anti-Semitism mutates, and in so doing, defeats the immune systems set up by cultures to protect themselves against hatred. There have been three such mutations in the past two thousand years, and we are living through the fourth.

The first took place with the birth of Christianity. Before then there had been many Hellenistic writers who were hostile to Jews. But they were also dismissive of other non-Hellenistic peoples. The Greeks called them barbarians. There was nothing personal in their attacks on Jews. This was not anti-Semitism. It was xenophobia.

This changed with Christianity. As was later to happen with Islam, the founders of the new faith, largely based on Judaism itself, believed that Jews would join the new dispensation and were scandalized when they did not. Jews were held guilty of not recognizing – worst still, of being complicit in the death of – the messiah. A strand of Judeophobia entered Christianity in some of its earliest texts, and became a fully-fledged genre, the ‘Adversos Judaeos’ literature, in the days of the Church Fathers. From here on, Jews – not non-Christians in general – became the target of what Jules Isaac called the ‘teaching of contempt’.

The second mutation began in 1096 when the Crusaders, on their way to conquer Jerusalem, stopped to massacre Jewish communities in Worms, Speyer and Mainz, the first major European pogrom. In 1144 in Norwich there was the first Blood Libel, a myth that still exists today in parts of the Middle East. Religious Judeophobia became demonic. Jews were no longer just the people who rejected Christianity. They began to be seen as a malevolent force, killing children, desecrating the host, poisoning wells and spreading the plague. There were forced conversions, inquisitions, burnings at the stake, staged public disputations, book burnings and expulsions. Europe had become a ‘persecuting society’.

We can date the third mutation to 1879 when the German journalist Wilhelm Marr coined a new word: anti-Semitism. The fact that he needed to do so tells us that this was a new phenomenon. It emerged in an age of Enlightenment, the secular nation state, liberalism and emancipation. Religious prejudice was deemed to be a thing of the past. The new hatred had therefore to justify itself on quite different grounds, namely race.

This was a fateful development, because you can change your religion. You cannot change your race. Christians could work for the conversion of the Jews. Racists could only work for the extermination of the Jews. So the Holocaust was born. Sixty years after the word came the deed.

Unlike its predecessors, new anti-Semitism focuses not on Jews as a religion or race, but as a nation.

Today we are living through the fourth mutation. Unlike its predecessors, the new anti-Semitism focuses not on Judaism as a religion, nor on Jews as a race, but on Jews as a nation. It consists of three propositions. First, alone of the 192 nations making up the United Nations, Jews are not entitled to a state of their own. As Amos Oz noted: in the 1930s, anti-Semites declared, ‘Jews to Palestine’. Today they shout, ‘Jews out of Palestine’. He said: they don’t want us to be there; they don’t want us to be here; they don’t want us to be.

The second is that Jews or the State of Israel (the terms are often used interchangeably) are responsible for the evils of the world, from AIDS to global warming. All the old anti-Semitic myths have been recycled, from the Blood Libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, still a best-seller in many parts of the world. The third is that all Jews are Zionists and therefore legitimate objects of attack.

The bomb attacks on synagogues in Istanbul and Djerba, the arson attacks on Jewish schools in Europe, and the almost fatal stabbing of a young yeshiva student on a bus in North London in October 2000, were on Jewish targets, not Israeli ones. The new anti-Semitism is an attack on Jews as a nation seeking to exist as a nation like every other on the face of the earth, with rights of self-governance and self-defense.

How did it penetrate the most sophisticated immune system ever constructed – the entire panoply of international measures designed to ensure that nothing like the Holocaust would ever happen again, from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) to the Stockholm declaration of 2000? The answer lies in the mode of self-justification. Most people at most times feel a residual guilt at hating the innocent. Therefore anti-Semitism has always had to find legitimation in the most prestigious source of authority at any given time.

In the first centuries of the Common Era, and again in the Middle Ages, this was religion. That is why Judeophobia took the form of religious doctrine. In the nineteenth century, religion had lost prestige, and the supreme authority was now science. Racial anti-Semitism was duly based on two pseudo-sciences, social Darwinism (the idea that in society, as in nature, the strong survive by eliminating the weak) and the so-called scientific study of race.

By the late twentieth century, science had lost its prestige, having given us the power to destroy life on earth. Today the supreme source of legitimacy is human rights. That is why Jews (or the Jewish state) are accused of the five primal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity.

That is where we are. How then shall we respond? There are three key messages, the first to Jews, the second to anti-Semites, and the third to our fellow human beings in this tense and troubled age. As Jews we must understand that we cannot fight anti-Semitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate. Jews cannot defeat anti-Semitism. Only the cultures that give rise to it can do so.

European Jews in the nineteenth and early twentieth century made one of the most tragic mistakes in history. They said: Jews cause anti-Semitism, therefore they can cure it. They did everything possible. They said, ‘People hate us because we are different. So we will stop being different.’ They gave up item after item of Judaism. They integrated, they assimilated, they married out, they hid their identity. This failed to diminish anti-Semitism by one iota. All it did was to debilitate and demoralize Jews.

We need allies. Jews have enemies but we also have friends and we must cultivate more. I have helped lead the fight against Islamophobia; I ask Muslims to fight Judeophobia. I will fight for the right of Christians throughout the world to live their faith without fear; but we need Christians to fight for the right of Jews to live their faith without fear.

The most important thing Jews can do to fight anti-Semitism is to never internalize it.

The most important thing Jews can do to fight anti-Semitism is never, ever to internalize it. That is what is wrong in making the history of persecution the basis of Jewish identity. For three thousand years Jews defined themselves as a people loved by God. Only in the nineteenth century did they begin to define themselves as the people hated by gentiles. There is no sane future along that road. The best psychological defense against anti-Semitism is the saying of Rav Nachman of Bratslav: ‘The whole world is a very narrow bridge; the main thing is never to be afraid.’

To anti-Semites and their fellow travelers we must be candid. Hate destroys the hated, but it also destroys the hater. It is no accident that anti-Semitism is the weapon of choice of tyrants and totalitarian regimes. It deflects internal criticism away by projecting it onto an external scapegoat. It is deployed in country after country to direct attention away from real internal problems of poverty, unemployment and underachievement. Anti-Semitism is used to sustain regimes without human rights, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a free press, liberty of association or accountable government. One truth resounds through the pages of history: To be free you have to let go of hate. Those driven by hate are enemies of freedom. There is no exception.

Finally to all of us together, we must say: Jews have been hated throughout history because they were different. To be sure, everyone is different; but Jews more than most fought for the right to be different. Under a succession of empires, and centuries of dispersion, Jews were the only people who for more than two thousand years refused to convert to the dominant religion or assimilate into the dominant culture. That is why anti-Semitism is a threat not just to Jews but to humanity.

Get Free Email Updates.

God, said the rabbis, makes everyone in His image, yet He makes everyone different to teach us to respect difference. And since difference is constitutive of humanity, a world that has no space for difference has no space for humanity. That is why a resurgence of anti-Semitism has always been an early warning of an assault on freedom itself. It is so today.

We must find allies in the fight against hate. For though it begins with Jews, ultimately it threatens us all.

This article first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Published: April 28, 2008

Visitor Comments: 42

(41) susan, August 21, 2011 5:33 PM

jew hatred

i am a very proud jew of my heritage and my people i get remarks that are hateful and threats by people why should i have to take my yarmuk off to walk down the stree i haverights too not to be harassed and picked on and treated cruely what can i do im prud of who i am and not goong to let others bully me into hiding what is wrong with [people? i dont bother them why dont they leave me alone? they mess with my family mainly my son itswrong what can i do? plz help susan in wisconsin

(40) Dan Gold, July 10, 2011 3:47 PM

What’s needed

…is for articles like this to appear also in places other than the Jewish press.

(39) Liz, February 13, 2010 7:08 PM

 

I think this is one of the best articles on anti-semitism I have ever read. It lacks the usual overall sense of hopelessness I noticed in some of the other articles. I especially liked the ending. Very lucid and well-written, in a word, eye-opening.

(38) Phil Balsam, May 23, 2008 4:17 PM

We cannot just stand and be slaughtered

I totally agree with your wonderful (bad word) article EXCEPT, we can”t just allow our people or any other people to be beaten, firebombed, killed while governmentd do very little to stop this violence (France, Belguim,UK etc.). We need a human rights version of the failed (for good reason) Jewish Defense League, ALL OVER THE WORLD.Let it be known, that we offer peace. You may hate us but you cannot beat us. We will protect ourselves. I am going to assume that you do not agree with the above but in my heart don”t want to listen,learn, change etc. Protection and revenge are the only way to treat many of these anti-semites. I am convinced that they believe in their hearts that they can wipe us out or at the least make us so afraid that we run.
I would very much like a response.

(37) Anonymous, May 19, 2008 10:10 AM

 

Sadly, this world will never love a Jew, because it never loved G-d. People are ready to go to great lengths to remove from themselves anything that reminds them on G-d, even if it means wanting to kill an entire nation. Such is the state of sickness ouf our mind, such is the immensity of our arrogance.
But this will never succeed, there is no fear.
As G-d said to Abraham, ”blessed is the one who blesses you, and cursed is the one who curses you”. In this way it is and it will be with anyone who does not show respect to G-d”s chosen people.
My heart breaks at all the evil and abuse that has been done to you in the past and that is done now.