The Best Way to Fight Anti-Semitism is With Happy Jews, Not Angry Jews

Anger stirs the nerves. It unleashes action. It loosens purse strings. In the business of activism, there’s nothing like anger to galvanize a cause.

In the Jewish world, fighting Jew-hatred is the royalty of causes. Saying that Jews have been victims of persecution throughout history is like saying that Jews have been around for a long time. The murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust was only the darkest chapter in humanity’s oldest hatred.

It’s not surprising, then, that Jews are ultra-sensitive to any sign of animosity toward their tribe. Our instinctive reaction to any expression of Jew-hatred is to get angry and fight back. Indeed, this approach to anti-Semitism has dominated Jewish activism. For years, our marching orders have been: “We can’t stand idly by. We must fight back and expose the haters.”

In the process, however, we are paying a silent price. We are creating a generation of angry Jews, one that defines its Jewish identity not by what it is for but what it is against.

The irony is there’s no evidence that this approach even works. We throw tens of millions of philanthropic dollars in the “fight” against anti-Semitism, we organize hundreds of seminars and panels, we write countless op-eds, and yet we continue to hear that anti-Semitism is still a “growing problem.”

Perhaps it’s time to invest more resources in another approach: Acknowledge that there’ll never be a cure for Jew-hatred and develop a vaccine that will inoculate Jews.

This vaccine, it turns out, has been staring us in the face. It is Judaism itself. We need to inject more Judaism into more Jews. We need to create more happy Jews who will spend more time doing something positive than fighting something negative.

Jews who value their Judaism are less vulnerable to Jew haters. They know who they are. Haters don’t define them.

But the haters get most of the attention, and for haters, that attention is like oxygen. We expose the haters, the media laps it up, and the cycle continues– because fear sells. As a result, the “fight against anti-Semitism” in many ways defines the modern Jewish identity. We depend on the hate to feed the identity.

We can aim higher.

Yes, we must never stop opposing evil. Activists, especially legal ones, must continue going after Jew-hating movements like BDS and defending Jews who feel threatened by this hatred. That goes without saying.

But the “pro-Judaism” movement needs to make a lot more noise. And I don’t mean just promoting “Jewish pride.” I mean disseminating more knowledge, more love for Judaism and its tradition. We don’t need more education about Jew-hatred; we need more education about Judaism.

We don’t need more education about Jew-hatred; we need more education about Judaism.

Let’s nurture a Jewish identity based on an ancient and miraculous story in which Jews maintained their identity while contributing so much to humanity.

Jews are more than victims of hatred; we’re a diverse, resilient people that engages with the world and loves to give back. We have a tradition that values meaning, wisdom and ethics. We ought to be merchants of joy and hope, not anger and fear.

More philanthropic dollars must go toward organizations that are creating happy Jews who love their Judaism. These Jews will be our best warriors.


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