Forum: Community Members Talk About the Current State of Anti-Semitism

9 Jun
In the May issue of the Jewish News, we asked the question: What are your thoughts on the current state of anti-Semitism?

Rabbi Geoffrey Huntting

  In her book published twelve years ago, Reading Lolita in Teheran: A Memoir in Books, author Azar Nafisi related her experience teaching young women in the privacy of her home, the classics of Western literature banned by the theocratic and repressive government, established by the Ayatollahs. She later decided to leave and establish a new life here in this country, accepting a position at Johns Hopkins University. “The hardest questions are these” she remarked: “When is it time to leave? And when is it too late?”
Jeffrey Goldberg asks the same question in the title of his article the Atlantic, with regard to Jews living in Europe:  Is it time for the Jews of Europe to leave?  In the article, the author gives a comprehensive account of the anti-Semitic incidents that have spiked in different parts of the continent. From desecration of Jewish cemeteries to violent demonstrations and terrorist attacks, we are reminded of the pre-war years of the 1930’s as European Jewry faced annihilation.
It was with that concern that I contacted Jewish friends living in Paris and asked them how they were feeling: Were they frightened? Were they thinking about emigrating, and if so, to which country? “We are nervous but not frightened,” was their response. One friend explained that the concern was two fold in France: certainly the attacks on Jews by Muslims and anti-Israel rhetoric on the left concerns us, but the terrible economic situation in France and several other EU members as well is also a worry.
Goldberg in his article tries to tie more traditional right wing elements to the anti-semitism rampant in the Muslim community in France as elsewhere. He cites the traditional anti-Semitic canards yelled by mobs as the attacked a Paris synagogue. But unlike the past, the extreme right in France, England, and Holland have been the first to denounce anti-semitism, and Marine Le Pen, the head of the right wing National Front has campaigned as a friend of Israel.
She is not to be trusted, but this is not the right wing of the 1930’s. Eastern Europe, however, continues to breed the type of anti-semitism that plagued Europe in the decades leading up to the Second World War.  Hungary is the best example of this with avowed anti-Semitic parties sitting in the Parliament, and a government that has white washed the disgraceful collaboration of Hungarians with the Nazi Germany in furtherance of the Shoah.
In a panel discussion last month, Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States reported on the state of anti-semitism in his country. His report was as honest as it was disturbing: Some 2,000 known terrorists trained by Al Qaeda and ISIL have returned to France from Syria and Iraq. “This will be a long fight,” he said. “It will take years, not weeks or months.
But if the Jews choose to leave, I hope it is a decision of the heart not a decision based on fear. If the decision to leave is a decision of the heart, it will break my heart, for France will not be France without a Jewish community.” That is true of the rest of Europe as well.

Rabbi Geoffrey Huntting was ordained by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1991. He received his B.A. in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a J.D. degree from Loyola Law School. He and his wife, Susan, have two children who grew up at Temple Sinai.


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