Won't you be their neighbor?

Responding to antisemitism in the US

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By the Rev. Cariño Casas
CMJ USA

Earlier this year, the American Jewish Committee released a report on the state of antisemitism in the United States. The study polled both American Jews and non-Jews. Most agree that the United States has an antisemitism problem, though the two groups differ on how bad of a problem it is. An AJC analysis said, “While 90 percent of American Jews believe antisemitism is either a very serious problem or somewhat of a problem, that number drops to 60 percent among the general public.” It makes sense that more Jewish Americans would be more sensitive to the threat. One-quarter of the general public believes antisemitism is not much of a problem or a problem at all while only 10 percent of Jews feel that way.1

“Perhaps unsurprisingly,” the AJC analysis continues, “Americans who say they know someone who is Jewish are significantly more likely to view antisemitism as a problem.” Also, “older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to say that antisemitism is a problem, with 70 percent of those aged 65 or older saying it is a problem compared to only 52 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 35.”

Man with kippah knocks on a door

It is telling that those who do not know any Jewish neighbors would not sense the threat of antisemitism. It is concerning that the younger generations have not been properly taught about the Holocaust and the virulent antisemitism that preceded it. In 31 states, Holocaust education is not required in the public school curriculum.

CMJ sees two practical steps to address these two findings on antisemitism in the US: get to know your Jewish neighbors and learn about antisemitism.

  • Get to know your Jewish neighbors: We cannot really understand why those outside our social circles might feel unsafe or unwanted until we “walk a mile in their shoes.” That requires getting to know their life challenges. Is there a synagogue or a Jewish neighborhood in your area? Go introduce yourself and ask them to teach you about the Jewish holidays. Why? Because Jesus celebrated the Feasts of the Lord. Or ask if they feel safe as Jews in your area. If they say no, ask how you can help make your neighborhood or town safe and welcoming.
     
  • Learn more about antisemitism:  You can start by reading what we’ve written thus far on our blog, where we will continue to add teachings and articles. Learn how the Church has struggled with antisemitism and be prepared to hear how your new Jewish friend’s family may have been affected directly by some pogrom or inquisition that was led or instigated by Christians in Europe or elsewhere. This history should humble us and move our hearts to repentance. Basilea Schlink was asked, “So for how long are you going to repent” for Christian antisemitism and the Holocaust? She responded, “So long as a Jewish heart is grieving, we will continue to express our grief for what happened.” 

One day your new friend will ask you why the Messiah is important to you. As with all new friends that we make, be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in the Messiah, with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15).

Not sure where to start? Invite a CMJ representative to come talk to your church or small group about antisemitism both within the church and in the society around us as well as how to build bridges with your Jewish neighbors.

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[1] For a counterargument to the AJC report, see Laura E. Adkins, “Opinion | How to Lie with Statistics, Antisemitism Edition, The Forward, accessed December 7, 2021.

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Article published on 12/15/2021