Anti-Semitism Really Is about the Jews

January 29, 2020 | Meir Soloveichik
About the author: Meir Soloveichik is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. His new website, containing all of his media appearances, podcasts, and writing, can be found at

Reflecting on the attack last month on the home of a rabbi in the New York town of Monsey, Meir  Soloveichik notes the symbolism of the fact that it fell on the holiday of Hanukkah:

The miracle commemorated on Hanukkah—a small flask of oil whose flame lasted much longer than expected—is often [disparaged] as a very minor miracle. But the rabbis chose to remember it because of its poetic power, as the oil embodies Israel itself, mysteriously enduring throughout the passage of time and therefore a proof of God in history. So the attack on the menorah ceremony embodies anti-Semitism itself. In the Bible, the miracles of the Exodus are immediately followed by the attack of the Amalekites; it is as if the Torah is telling us that chosenness and anti-Semitism, the miracle of the Jews and the existence of Jew-hatred, go hand in hand.

It is this concept that many, including some Jews, find difficult to accept. Following Monsey, and an eventual recognition of the unremitting spate of attacks on Ḥasidim in and around New York City, it was commonly said that anti-Semitism has little to do with Jews, that it reflects the dysfunctions of society, that we are targeted because we are different, or outsiders. It is true, of course, that anti-Semitism is not the fault of the Jews, but there are plenty of other outsiders, and people who are different, in the New York area, yet it is Jews who are targeted. . . . [W]hat we have been witnessing over the past months are attacks on Jews who, like the menorah once placed publicly outside the door, publicize their Judaism by wearing their faith quite literally on their sleeve.

Strikingly, the writer with the best understanding of the situation has not been Jewish at all. He is Robert Nicholson, a friend of mine and a young Christian leader. . . . Nicholson argues that the disease of anti-Semitism “almost always grows from a resentment of ‘chosenness’: the idea that the Jewish God appointed one nation, the nation of Israel, to play a special role in history.”

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