By Jeremy Bannett
Next week, Jews across the world will celebrate one of the most improbable triumphs against anti-Semitism in our history. The miraculous victory of the Maccabees illustrates that, when Jews stand together, there is no threat too great for us to overcome.
In stark contrast to that uplifting tale stands Tisha B’Av, when we remember one of the lowest points in our history — the destruction of the Temple. It is said that this tragedy was the result of sinat chinam, baseless hatred, which fractured the Jewish people so gravely that we became vulnerable to those who wanted to do us harm.
Today, the Jewish community once again faces the threat of rising anti-Semitism. We must make a critical choice: We can put our differences aside and stand together, or we can succumb to infighting and division. If we strive for unity like the Maccabees, we will prevail. If we fall prey to sinat chinam, we risk becoming victims to those who wish us ill.
Make no mistake: Anti-Semitism is on the march. According to the ADL Global 100 Index, roughly one out of every four people on the planet harbors significant anti-Semitic views. The United States experienced historic levels of anti-Semitism over the past two years, according to ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. The FBI concurs, recently revealing that 2018 was the deadliest year for hate crimes on record, with 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes targeting Jews. Closer to home, New Jersey experienced the third-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the nation, and Pennsylvania endured the most lethal anti-Semitic attack in American history — the Tree of Life building shooting in Pittsburgh.
The blame for surging anti-Semitism does not lie at the feet of any single person or party. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have trafficked in anti-Semitic language and stereotypes, while cynically accusing their opponents of hating Jews. This trend has trickled down to the local level, where individuals and groups feel emboldened to wield the implements and ideas of anti-Semitism. Jews are being attacked, harassed and marginalized in places that they once considered safe — college campuses, public sidewalks, elementary schools, workplaces, even synagogues.
The time has come for the Jewish community to join together against anti-Semitism, no matter where it arises or what form it takes. This is the only way to stop the spread of anti-Jewish animus.
We cannot have illusions that this will be an easy task. Jews, like all Americans, are subject to the same forces that are carving deep fissures in our society as a whole. Seeking common ground in these divided times is far harder than retreating behind our partisan battlements. The fact remains, however, that if we want to make headway against anti-Semitism, we must put aside our political differences and find common cause with other Jews.
We must also be clear-eyed that the most effective way to combat anti-Semitism is from the inside. While it is easy to point fingers across the aisle and engage in “whataboutism,” that sort of external criticism has limited impact. Instead, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, we must be courageous and uncompromising in condemning anti-Semitism within our own camps.
That is no simple task. Those who stand up against bigotry run the risk of being labeled biased, disloyal or worse. Even ADL, which remains proudly nonpartisan even in these divisive times, is often accused of being an agent of the far-left or the far-right, depending on the perspective of the accuser. But only if Jews remain united and true to our convictions can we move the needle in the fight against anti-Jewish hate.
The word “Chanukah” means “to dedicate.” This year, as we celebrate the Festival of Lights, let us dedicate ourselves to emulating the Maccabees by coming together to fight anti-Semitism.
Jeremy Bannett is the senior associate regional director of ADL Philadelphia.
I agree with Jeremy Bannett’s message. It’s time to put aside the inter-Jewish hatreds and work together to fight the growing tide of antisemitism. I recently came acrosst a right-wing jew hater saying the “Jews are coming to get us” and he believed every word of it. He joins some on the left who use their hatred of the Israel to hide their antisemitism. When we’re at each others throats it’s a lot easier to conquer us and a lot easier for the haters to spread more division. We either hang together or we will hang separately.