December 12, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 330 — Combating antisemitism

Recent antisemitic comments made by some high-profile celebrities come at a time when antisemitism in the United States is already on the rise. With Hannukah quickly approaching, IU's Alvin Rosenfeld says there are ways we can all effectively counter hate.  

There have been many notable incidents of antisemitism in recent years. And while most of us have heard about the events covered by media, Rosenfeld, director of IU Bloomington's Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, says there are many other assaults that take place against the Jewish community on a regular basis in places like New York City and around the country that do not make headlines.  

While antisemitism has been around for a couple thousand years, Rosenfeld says the motivation for it may change over time. It is triggered by animosities against the Jewish community that may be religious, social, economic, political, and cultural. Whatever drives it into the public sphere can become destructive. Rosenfeld says there must be zero-tolerance for openly expressed hatred against Jewish people and others who find themselves under attack.  

Rosenfeld calls antisemitism "the longest hatred." The difference between antisemitism and other forms of hate in the United States is that it is multi-causal. He says people must stay alert to aggressive hostility directed against all groups of people and stand firmly against them.  

The best way to contend with antisemitism, Rosenfeld says, is through education. He says most people in America are decent and are not antisemitic people. However, many individuals do not live near, or interact with the Jewish community and may know little about Judaism. That may make them vulnerable to the spread of misinformation. Rosenfeld says the more contact people can have with one another, the better. It normalizes the relationship.  

Education must also be muti-faceted; when people understand both the historical and moral backgrounds of antisemitism, it encourages them to forego passivity and indifference when aggressive behaviors against the Jewish community surface.  

Rosenfeld says Judaism is a life-affirming religion with ethical and spiritual teachings that guide its adherents to an inspired and decent way of being in the world and making it better for all. When these teachings are followed, Rosenfeld says we witness something like the triumph of life, even in the face of threats against life by those who espouse hatred.  

When Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 18, Rosenfeld says the best way to respect and acknowledge the holiday is simple: wish those in the Jewish community a happy Hanukkah and for it to be filled with brightness and cheer. Standing with the Jewish community as they celebrate these special days is the best response to antisemitism.