Rabbi: Fight anti-Semitism with pride and education
Saying it defies logic, facts, and history across millennia, Rabbi Ken Spiro called anti-Semitism the world’s longest-running organized hatred.
“It was at Mount Sinai that anti-Semitism was born,” said Spiro, an author and TV personality speaking before a crowd of 250 Sept. 16 at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
Spiro was brought to the synagogue by member Dr. Naomi Vilko, president of the grassroots Princeton and New York Advocates for Israel. He also appeared the following night before 100 people at Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville in “A Nation That Dwells Alone: Why the World Picks on Tiny Israel,” a program sponsored by Torah Links of Monmouth County.
A Brooklyn native who made aliya in 1982, Spiro is senior lecturer and researcher for the Orthodox outreach group Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminars and for the Jerusalem Online University.
Spiro noted that even today anti-Semitism stands out among all forms of hatred for its universality. Indeed, the Anti-Defamation League’s recent international survey found that 26 percent of all people polled in 102 countries and territories — 70 percent of whom admitted they had never met a Jew — hold anti-Semitic beliefs, including 9 percent of Americans.
“For over 100 years it has been the only form of hatred that has had its own word,” said Spiro. “Wherever Jews go, anti-Semitism follows. The world is full of racists, bigots, and intolerant people, but the intensity sets it apart from all other hatreds.”
The early Zionists believed establishment of a Jewish state would end anti-Semitism. And yet anti-Semitism is at “historic” levels not seen since the Holocaust, Spiro said.
“There are any number of things said about us that have no basis in reality,” he explained. “There’s nothing we can do to change something we didn’t do in the first place.”
Yet Jews have survived long after their powerful foes disappeared into history, he said, because they never deviated from their core beliefs.
“What is potentially fatal to Jews on a micro level is ignorance of Judaism,” said Spiro. “As the Jews of Germany experienced, assimilation can be a disaster.”
He contended that “the greatest explosions of Jew-hatred have been in places where Jews have been most assimilated.”
Jewish college students are especially vulnerable, he said. Students must be educated Jewishly and taught to be “proud Jews.” If they are not, when they are confronted with unrelenting criticism, they will likely turn away from Judaism.
“Young college students are a disaster waiting to happen,” warned Spiro. “If our role as Jews is to be a kiddush Hashem [blessing of God’s name], to spread the word of God and elevate the world — if we don’t get Jewish values into the world it will become evil and who will be the target? The Jews.”