Inside View May/Jun 2020
A good friend of mine who is Jewish once told me Jewish history in Christian countries follows a pattern. Initially, Jewish people are welcomed. Over time, they’re encouraged to convert to Christianity. Eventually, they are given the choice to convert or die. Many have chosen death.
Often they have had to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. Those who remained faced elimination.
I refer to this scenario as the three Es of anti-Semitism: evangelism, expulsion, elimination. It’s a pattern that has been repeated over and over in Gentile nations. First came evangelism in an attempt to convince Jewish people to embrace the Christian faith. When that didn’t work, verbal and physical violence against them began, and they came to be seen as “the problem.”
Many countries passed laws to expel them, as did Spain, England, and France. This legacy produced the picture of the wandering Jew that framed Jewish existence for ages. Their precarious situation explains why many Jewish people became artisans, skilled in such crafts as jewelry-making: It’s easier to gather up and relocate at a moment’s notice. It’s also why many Jewish people place a high premium on education: You can take your knowledge with you wherever you go.
But expulsion simply relocated the children of Jacob; it didn’t solve “the problem” of their existence. Tragically, the ultimate solution became elimination. Millions of Jewish people have been murdered over the centuries, with the Holocaust of World War II constituting the greatest single effort to eliminate them. In his book The Zion Connection, former Friends of Israel Executive Director Elwood McQuaid wrote, “In the last 800 years, half of the Jews born into the world have been murdered.”
My Jewish friend told me the United States is the only place Jewish people have lived without the threat of open anti-Semitism. However, he cautioned, if history teaches us anything, Jewish people will eventually face it in America. When he shared this insight with me, it was difficult to think that a country founded and guided by Judeo-Christian values would ever become overtly anti-Semitic.
Certainly, not everyone in America is Christian; and even among Christians, not everyone favors Israel. Yet historically, the United States has been extremely supportive of Israel and the Jewish people. Since America was founded, Jewish people have been an important part of its great fabric.
However, attitudes are changing. We’re witnessing a surge of anti-Semitism in America. Verbal and physical attacks are increasing exponentially in cities and university campuses across this nation. Following a recent spate of violence, one headline in particular on haaretz.com grabbed my attention: “We Thought Anti-Semitism Was No Threat to U.S. Jews. We Were Wrong.”
The December 31 opinion piece by Eric H. Yoffie said 52 percent of hate crimes in New York City in 2019 targeted Jews, and anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city increased by 63 percent. We are witnessing the alarming growth of brazen attacks against Jewish people in streets, parks, stores, subways, synagogues, and even in their own homes.
My friend’s words seem to be coming true. As one Jewish writer said, “Anti-Semitism . . . becomes dangerous in any society when three things happen: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership; when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby; and when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.”1
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry was founded in 1938 to stand against anti-Semitism and help Jewish people who were suffering under the evil hatred of the Third Reich. Today we continue to stand in friendship with the Jewish people. But our challenge going forward is to face anti-Semitism in our own backyard. As long as the Lord enables us, we will stand fast against this vile hatred—regardless of the cost.
- Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: The Keys to Understanding American Anti-Semitism—and Fighting Back,” jta.org, January 2, 2020 (tinyurl.com/JTAsacks).