Like most of you, I am not an expert on anti-Semitism. Nor have I experienced much anti-Semitism in my life. A few “dirty Jew” taunts in high school is all. My fear of anti-Semitism has arisen through the experiences of others, and not from direct experience.
I feel anguish and fear when a French Jewish woman is raped, thrown over a balcony to her death, or when Orthodox Jews in New York are attacked physically and verbally. I feel it when rampant white supremacist Jew hatred is levelled at our Jewish brethren or when the right of the only Jewish state to exist is questioned, and when the leaders of the very people with whom Israel is supposed to be making peace, the Palestinians, are teaching their children to hate Jews and paying their people to terrorize Jews. I feel it in empathy with the U.K. Jewish community who dodged a bullet in the last election, and with the Jews of France whose safety is in question. I feel it in remembering Pittsburgh and San Diego and New Jersey and too many other not so isolated incidents. I feel it from the anti-fascist (antifa) left, from the right and from the Islamists. I feel it.
Right now these things are happening to “others.” But are the conditions here in Toronto and Canada all that different from prior conditions of others who are now in the thick of Jew hatred? Are we next?
It is possible that the unique combination of factors in Canada, including political and corporate leadership, the sensitivity of the media, combined with some form of Canadian uniqueness will spare us from the fate of too many other Jews around the world.
But talking about possibilities and failing to act where the well being of our friends and families are involved is not good enough. People wear seatbelts because of possibilities. We are checked for explosives at the airport because of possibilities. While you might believe that anti-Semitism is unlikely to spread materially here in Canada, you cannot argue that the disease affecting other western countries cannot spread here as it has elsewhere. Even if we think there is a small chance of it happening here, shouldn’t we be pulling out all the stops to reduce that possibility?
When Jew-focused hatred, fear and loathing get to a tipping point, they are hard to stop. It becomes a tidal wave of hate, as we have seen not just in Nazi Germany, but in many Christian and Muslim countries over the centuries.
All of which is to say we had all better pay very close attention to what is taking place here in Canada. Incidents of anti-Semitism are growing and the situation isn’t getting any better. Anti-Semitism is a societal disease: like cancer, it exists in all western societies and is triggered by societal events. We need to find and understand those triggers, and respond as needed to the changes. We need to fight for ourselves, while also associating with, and ensuring the education of our non-Jewish natural friends in this country – people who, rather than being jealous of perceived Jewish productivity, appreciate us, work with us and enjoy the value we bring to this country.
Some forms of Jew hatred, particularly anti-Zionism, are seen as acceptable because we are seen as being part of a so-called white majority, as “oppressors”. But factually speaking, we are victims now as we have been in the past and we do ourselves an injustice if we do not proclaim our equal right to victimhood in an era where victim status carries so much value.
Avoiding the generic blame game is critical. To suggest, as some do, that it’s all about President Trump is dangerous. In fact, the executive Order which expanded Title VI protection to Jews under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition was incredibly helpful in fighting anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not going to vanish after the Trump presidency. Nor is it just about the far left, the Islamists or the white supremacists.
In being vigilant, we need to remember that the thrust of anti-Semitism is based on lies. In the case of decent people, sharing the truth of the matter will be fairly received, without bias and will win the day. Finding the mechanisms to make the case that we Jews are in fact ok, add value, and are not the horned devils that many suggest we are, is a job we need to do well. But simply assuming that “it cannot happen here” is a dangerous assumption to make.