Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of England, once described anti-Semitism as a virus and sickness of the soul, which has no logic. “Jews were hated because they were rich and because they were poor; because they were capitalists and because they were communists; because they held tenaciously to an ancient faith and because they were rootless cosmopolitans, believing nothing.”
Jews have been persecuted throughout ages – from the ancient Egyptians, Greek, and Romans to the Crusades, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Khmelnytsky Uprising and Dreyfus Affair, and from the Holocaust to the Palestinian Intifadas. For millennia, Jews have been oppressed with anti-Jewish edicts, blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions, and massacres. Commentators, pundits, and historians always justified and rationalized those attacks – as did the anti-Semites.
Throughout history, people blamed Jews for anti-Semitism. Haman blamed the Jews for their failure to assimilate, Antiochus IV Epiphanes criticized the Jews for their ancient customs and teachings, and many pogroms resulted from Jews being “money-hungry” bankers. Nevertheless, a commonality that spawned anti-Semitism is anti-Jewish propaganda.
In recent years, there has been an onslaught of negative media and misinformation regarding orthodox Jews. The mass media and book publishers have been eager and enthusiastic to publish stories – mostly unverified gossip and libelous claims – about our traditions and way of life. While the orthodox Jewish community has its challenges – like any other community, the media painted all orthodox Jews as sex abusers and illiterate cheats who don’t have any access to the outside world and are the cause of the spread of measles. Recent documentaries and TV shows portrayed our community as strange and backward with misogynistic tendencies. Publishers sold biographies and memoirs that orthodox Judaism represents a cult that covers up crimes – including murders and mutilations – and is highly insular with no connection to the outside world.
Finally, the media has been slandering our community with sensational stories about yeshiva education, eruvim, and the expansion of Jewish expansion and population growth.
In 1922, a New York Times article dismissed Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Likewise, many in the media are currently dismissing the rise of anti-Semitism and blaming mental health. Particularly, Errol Louis, a New York City journalist and television show host, is a media personality who recently jumped on the propaganda bandwagon. As an “impartial” journalist, he made it his mission to improve the education of yeshiva graduates. Accordingly, he propelled the yeshiva education to the forefront of the news cycle and continuously retweets anti-orthodox Jewish tidbits. Most recently, he didn’t consider it important to mention that a Jewish school was targeted in the Jersey City shooting. His chutzpah knew no bounds, however, when he recently diminished the concept of adult anti-Semitism and attacked community leaders for asking for increased police protection in response to the Monsey stabbing. He is just an example.
The recent uptick is a result of fake news and libelous propaganda – just like in the past. The politicians issued sharp condemnations and statements where they promised to fight anti-Semitism. Let them start with the media!
Dave Hirsch – Brooklyn, NY
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
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