Imagine beginning your worship service this weekend with an announcement about where the exits are—in case a shooter attacks and people need to run for their lives. Or locking your doors once the service begins. Or training your congregation in ways to respond to a live shooter.
Imagine installing airport-style metal detectors and security guards at the entrances to your church. Or being harassed by demonstrators outside your building carrying signs celebrating those who murdered six million followers of your faith.
This is life for Jewish people today—not just in France, where anti-Semitic violence has risen 74 percent; or in Germany, where 1,646 anti-Semitic acts were reported last year; or in the UK, where 1,652 such incidents were reported; or in Canada, which recorded 2,041 anti-Semitic acts—but in America.
Six months ago, a man who said he wanted all Jews to die attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven people and wounding seven. Last Saturday, around one hundred people held a vigil at the synagogue to honor the victims of a similar shooting in San Diego.
Last year, anti-Semitic acts in the US were 48 percent higher than in 2016 and 99 percent higher than in 2015.
Three reasons anti-Semitism is growing
Why is such horrific prejudice and violence increasing in our country?
Conspiracy theories are one factor.
At a 2017 confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us.” The teenager accused of the Poway shooting in California apparently embraced conspiracy theories that refugees and immigrants are replacing the Christian European majority. Some white supremacists call this “The Great Replacement.”
Fear of the “other” is a second issue.
Sharon R. Douglas, CEO of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York, believes hate crimes are driven by economic competition and the fear of others. “Some of our most vulnerable citizens feel empowered to turn to violence in defense of the us versus them” mentality, she explained.
Social media is a third factor.
Today it is easier than ever to disseminate conspiracy theories and hateful ideologies. According to one analyst, “These systems of communication allow racists and anti-Semites to support one another and share ideas, which apparently help inspire them to commit violent acts.”
An appalling cartoon
Anti-Semitism is not confined to Jewish synagogues.
The New York Times recently published a cartoon picturing a blind President Trump, wearing a skullcap, being led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, depicted as a dog on a leash with a Star of David collar. The paper said it was “deeply sorry” for the offensive cartoon and is “committed to making sure nothing like this happens again.”
Anti-Semitism is more than a phenomenon—it is an ideology.
Tragically, some still believe that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus’ death. However, the religious authorities and crowds who called for Jesus’ crucifixion were a tiny minority of the larger Jewish population. And Jesus prayed for their forgiveness from the cross (Luke 23:34).
In addition, many through history have seen the tiny Jewish population (comprising fifteen million people, less than 0.2 percent of the world today) as a threat to themselves. When Jews flourish in business and commerce, others resent their success.
Adolf Hitler convinced his followers that they were an Aryan superrace whose global supremacy was threatened by the Jews. Neo-Nazis continue this horrific heresy today.
Three biblical responses
What can Christians do to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism in our day?
One: Love the Jewish people as God does.
He chose them “to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2). Jesus died for them just as he died for us (Romans 5:8).
Two: Seek their salvation in Christ.
Paul testified, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” as he worked for the salvation of his fellow Jews (Romans 9:2). Build bridges to Jewish people in your community. Look for opportunities to demonstrate God’s love for them.
Three: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).
Ask God to protect Israel and Jewish people around the world.
When an entire nation pauses
Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel began last night at sundown and continues through sundown today. (It was observed yesterday in the US.)
A two-minute siren will sound at ten this morning across the Holy Land. I have witnessed firsthand how the nation responds: drivers stop their vehicles and stand beside them; people cease their activities; the entire nation pauses to remember the six million Jews (a fourth of whom were children) who were murdered in the Holocaust.
This annual tradition should be a daily remembrance. What has happened in the past can happen again in the present. Anything humans have done, they can still do.
When I visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, I always make time for the Children’s Memorial. Visitors walk through a darkened underground chamber. The only illumination comes from a memorial candle reflected in mirrors to produce thousands of tiny lights. The names of children murdered in the Holocaust are read in the background.
Each time I visit, I weep for those who died. And I pray that it never happens again.
Please join me.