The Obligation to Fight Antisemitism

By: Daniella Weiss  |  December 6, 2022

By Daniella Weiss, Staff Writer 

For generations, antisemitism has relentlessly followed the Jews wherever they have gone. But for a while, at least in the United States, things have been relatively calm– there have, of course, still been many hateful acts towards the Jews, but, overall, we have not had to fear for our safety as we have in the past. Recently, however, antisemitism has been on the rise; hate crimes against Jews are more frequent now than they have been for a long time. It is up to us to stand up against it. As we begin Kislev, the month of Chanukah, it is incumbent upon us to take a lesson from the Maccabim (Hasmoneans) in their fight against the Greeks. 

As the Al HaNisim liturgy recalls, the Maccabim were the few and weak against the many and strong. However, despite the odds, they stood up for the truth and fought for their freedom when the Jewish people were being degraded, belittled, and threatened. In modern times, while the number of attacks continues to rise, the amount of people who speak out against them must rise as well. There are times in life to be silent and times to speak out. This is the time to speak out. Whether it’s voting for candidates that are receptive to Jewish concerns or protesting anti-Israel legislation in government, staying silent is not an option. Even joining pro-Israel clubs in college is a great way to show support for the Jewish people and taking a stand against antisemitism. 

If we, as Jews, don’t stand up for ourselves, who will? How can we expect others to stand up for us? In Pirkei Avos 1:14, a rhetorical question is posed, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Our Sages emphasize this point later on, when they assert, “in a place where there is no leader, strive to be a leader (2:6).”

When no one else steps up to the plate, we need to be that leader! R’ Shimon Bar Yochai tells us that “Halacha Hi B’Yadu’a She’Eisav Soneh L’Yaakov”, it is a fact that Esav hates Jacob (Sifrei Bamidbar 69:2). There’s no logical reason for it. Rabbi Menachem Ziemba HY”D observed that people try to analyze historical reasons for antisemitism. Nations persecuted Jews because they were too capitalist, socialist, ambitious, dependent, zealously religious, or assimilationist and progressive. When the Jews are hated for one reason in a country, they’re hated for the opposite in another. Clearly, there is no rational explanation for the hate against Jews.

With the rise in attacks, we cannot remain silent.. The Chofetz Chaim remarked that if you see someone drowning and you don’t know how to swim, you don’t need to jump in to save them. However, if you witness a drowning every day, you have an obligation to learn how to swim. We are seeing antisemitism continue to rise every day. We have an obligation to learn how to swim. It is time to stand up to antisemitism and not stand idle over the spilled blood of our brethren (Vayikra 19:16). Enough is enough.