I was born Jewish. My parents were Jewish. But, from a young age I resisted a Jewish identity. I rejected the mysticism of religious belief; the seemingly mindless rituals; the unearned guilt; the collectivism. I was outraged by being (briefly) forced to attend hebrew school, and offended friends of my family with criticisms of Judaism and Israeli policies.
I’ve often said that I don’t really consider myself to be Jewish…unless there is an anti-semite in the room. I might not agree with all of Judaism, but I know which side of the Jew/Anti-Semite battle I belong on.
I’ve always found anti-semitism difficult to understand. Why would people hate me, and the wonderful Jewish people that I know? It just made no sense. I understood that unsuccessful leaders wanted scapegoats, and that many people resented that Jews kept separate (resisting inter-marriage, conversion, local customs, etc.). But that didn’t explain the persistent hatred of Jews for thousands of years. I had a sense that it was because Jews were often successful where others were not; that Jews pursued the “Western” values of knowledge, justice, human rights, before these gained popularity in the West. I’ve heard many theories, but none have been entirely satisfactory. I still don’t understand anti-semitism, but I think it’s about more than reasons to hate Jews. It’s about real problems with many people’s values.
And now, anti-semitism really seems to be on the rise again.
All of this is just an introduction to my encouragement for you to read Natan Sharansky’s powerful examination of this question.
(Thanks to The World for the pointer.)