Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt delves into anti-Semitism at Hillel International



February 13, 2019

Renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt spoke to more than 170 Hillel professionals on Wednesday about her latest book, “Antisemitism: Here and Now.”

“I know what I’m fighting for and not just what I’m fighting against,” she said.

In her book, Lipstadt explores the resurgence of anti-Semitism through a series of letters exchanged between fictional characters — a Jewish college student named Abigail and a non-Jewish colleague named Joe.

The afternoon event, organized at Hillel’s Schusterman International Center in Washington, D.C., attracted nationwide Hillel professionals, who either attended in person or participated in the live stream. The one-hour conversation with Lipstadt was facilitated by Rabbi Benjamin Berger, vice president for Jewish education at Hillel International.

Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, addressed anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses, applauding students for their efforts to combat baseless hatred.

“Students have it tougher than I do,” Lipstadt said. “They’re heroes because they’re fighting anti-Semitism every day to help other students fight it.”

She identified anti-Semitism as a long-standing issue embedded in civilization. Lipstadt stressed that stereotypes have specific markers, and for Jewish people, those markers typically involve money, power and intellect.

There is no simple answer to addressing intense hatred, she said. Although educating others isn’t always an “automatic antidote” to the centuries-old problem, Jewish people should engage in difficult conversations about anti-Semitism if they can have a positive outcome, she said.

“If there’s a chance you can reach someone, explain and educate them about it, then you have to do it,” Lipstadt said. 

When asked how she found the will to persevere in the face of adversity, highlighting her lengthy legal battle with a Holocaust denier, Lipstadt said she has maintained a clear understanding of her mission.

“We’re not just battling anti-Semitism, we’re fighting to ensure the Jewish identity of a next generation,” Lipstadt said.

To learn how to facilitate conversations with students about anti-Semitism, Hillel professionals will unpack “Anti-Semitism: Here and Now” in a meeting with Erica Brown, a Jewish educator who is creating an educational guide about the book.