Anti-Semitism has been part of Jewish history from the very beginning. When the Jews were in their own land, they skirmished with competing groups (see Amalek). Once they were exiled, they fought discrimination from the government and from their neighbors. The holidays of Passover, Purim and Chanukah recount Jewish victories over official oppression. Yom Hashoah (Holocaust memorial day), Tisha B’Av, and several minor fasts recall moments of sadness throughout Jewish history.
Anti-Semitism has helped to forge the Jewish national psyche, in everything from our prayers, to our literature, to our sense of humor. In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevya the Milkman, the quintessential persecuted shtetl Jew, complains to God, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?”
Tales of Jewish heroism are also a byproduct of persistent anti-Semitism. Jewish heroes -- from Moses leading a threatened people out of Egypt, to Judah Maccabee defeating the Syrian Greeks, to Rabbi Yehudah Loew’s creation of the supernatural Golem, to resistance fighter Hannah Senesh’s death while on a secret mission to save Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust -- have inspired Jews and non-Jews to fight oppression.
Even today, a latter-day Haman, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denies the Holocaust and threatens the existence of Israel. Individuals still choose to attack Jews and Jewish institutions on city streets and on campus. But today is different. Today Jews enjoy political freedom and legal protection in most places where they live. Local, national and international organizations exist to speak out on behalf of Jews who have been subjected to anti-Semitism. And the State of Israel stands as a haven for persecuted Jews.
Powerless during much of their history, Jews today can take pride and comfort in knowing that they have the resources and the support they need to fight anti-Semitism when and if it occurs.
Resources for fighting anti-Semitism:
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Jewish Council on Public Affairs (umbrella organization for local Jewish community relations groups)
American Jewish Congress